Now that USCIS has completed the H-1B lottery, many F-1 students who filed
H-1B petitions and were accepted as part of the lottery are eligible for cap-gap
extension coverage. The cap-gap provision automatically extends until October 1,
F-1 status and employment authorization for F-1 students who have a pending or
approved H-1B petition.
Many F-1 clients may be wondering if they can travel during the cap-gap
period. Though USCIS guidance is fuzzy, it appears that F-1 students will lose
cap-gap benefits if they travel internationally during the cap-gap period. This
means that if an F-1 student travels outside the United States during the
cap-gap extension period, he or she will not be able to return to the United
States in valid F-1 status.
Confusion about the ability to travel stems from the April 23, 2010 ICE
policy guidance 1004-03, “Update
to Optional Practical Training,” This guidance
explains that a student should not travel outside the United States during the
cap-gap extension because USCIS considers an application to change status to be
abandoned if the applicant leaves the country while the change of status is
pending. However, the guidance does not address whether travel is permitted
during the cap-gap period if the H-1B is approved.