U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a Q&A document on April 1, 2011, addressing the automatic extension of F-1 student status in the U.S. for certain students with pending or approved H-1B petitions (indicating a request for change of status from F-1 to H-1B) for an employment start date of October 1, 2011, under the fiscal year (FY) 2012 H-1B cap. Although the first business day of October 2011 is Monday, October 3, eligible F-1 students must make sure to request Saturday, October 1, as their start date in order to qualify for the cap-gap extension, USCIS said.
Once a timely filing has been made requesting a change of status to H-1B on October 1, the automatic cap-gap extension will begin and will continue until the H-1B petition adjudication process has been completed, USCIS explained. If the student's H-1B petition is selected and approved, the student's extension will continue through September 30 unless the petition is denied, withdrawn, or revoked. If the student's H-1B petition is not selected, the student will have the standard 60-day grace period from the date of the rejection notice or their program end date, whichever is later, to prepare for and depart the U.S.
To obtain proof of continuing status, a student covered under the cap-gap extension should go to his or her designated school official (DSO) with evidence of a timely filed H-1B petition (indicating a request for change of status rather than for consular processing), such as a copy of the petition and a FedEx, UPS, or USPS Express/certified mail receipt. The student's DSO will issue a preliminary cap-gap I-20 showing an extension until June 1, 2011.
If the H-1B petition is selected for adjudication, the student should return to his or her DSO with a copy of the petitioning employer's Form I-797, Notice of Action, with a valid receipt number, indicating that the petition was filed and accepted. The student's DSO will issue a new cap-gap I-20 indicating the continued extension of F-1 status, USCIS said.
USCIS strongly encourages students "to stay in close communication with their petitioning employer during the cap-gap extension period for status updates on the H-1B petition processing."
The USCIS notice is available here.