by Maria Schneider

Students with work authorization under OPT (optional practical training) whose H-1B has been chosen under the cap are eligible for cap-gap work authorization. Many students graduating from US colleges and universities with degrees in physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech language pathology, medical technology, and other allied health professions are eligible for OPT and work on OPT after graduation.

When the student is approved for OPT, the student receives an employment authorization document (EAD). This is a plastic card, much like a driver’s license, which shows the student’s photo and biographic information. An OPT EAD Card is pictured here:

The validity dates of the OPT work authorization are listed near the bottom of the card. In the case above, the student’s OPT work authorization expires on July 14. Assuming this student’s H-1B petition has been selected under the H-1B cap, the student is eligible to apply for cap gap work authorization to extend his OPT work authorization from July 15 to October 1 when the H-1B begins.

The cap gap extension is not automatic. The student should present the H-1B receipt notice showing his/her H-1B has been selected to the international student office at his/her school. The school will issue a new I-20 to the student showing the OPT has been extended to October 1. Employers should use this new I-20 to re-verify the student’s I-9 work authorization through October 1.

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