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Apply STEM OPT Extension during Cap Gap, with H1B Visa Picked in Lottery ?

Some of you in US on F1 visa in 12 month OPT period and in cap gap, might have been lucky enough to be picked in H1B visa lottery and SEVIS your active OPT employment end is date Sept 30th,as you were picked in lottery…. Some of the common questions that are asked by such students is that “ Should I file for STEM OPT Extension ?  Does applying for STEM OPT have any impact on my H1B Application. Should I really file it or not ? what are the consequences ?”. Let’s look at this scenario and look at the best way to proceed.

Having picked in Lottery does not mean your H1B Petition is approved :
Firstly, you need to be very clear that, your petition was just picked H1B Visa Lottery, that’s it…it does not really mean your petition was approved. As you can see in Steps after H1B Lottery Process , your case can go through scenarios like RFE and may even get denied, if you get really unlucky…sometimes, it could be some administrative and clerical mistakes in filing with application that lead to denials…or sometimes, your employer may not be able to honour the job offer due to various reasons, as they had to wait for 6 months…anything can go wrong…The key point to take away from this is that you need to have a backup plan, if things do not work out…If your degree falls  under STEM Category, you have a backup option, let’s look at that.

Can you apply for STEM OPT Extension, if your H1B Petition was picked in Lottery ?
It is confused by some students/ employers that your H1B petition is somehow directly related to your STEM OPT extension and you can only have/do one thing at a time…This is NOT true. Your STEM OPT Extension filing does NOT conflict with pending H1B or your approved H1B petition. In general, until H1B change of status (COS) is approved and the Oct 1st start date of your H1B employment is reached, it is usually possible to file a STEM OPT Extension, without having any negative impact on your current H1B petition.  So, if your degree falls under STEM Category and you are in cap gap period, you should definitely pursue this option and file for STEM OPT Extension.

When should you file for STEM OPT Extension ? When is the Deadline ?
You should file for STEM OPT Extension, which is for additional 24 months, before your current 12 month OPT expiration date. USCIS will not accept STEM OPT Extensions any earlier than 90 days before the current OPT EAD expiration. So, technically, you should file for STEM OPT Extension, when you are in the last 90 days of your valid OPT period.

Can I apply for STEM OPT Extension during my 60 day grace period ?
STEM OPT Extensions filed after OPT expiration date will not be granted, the simple reason is that you have already extended your status automatically using cap gap provision and now you filing for STEM OPT extension during your 60 day grace period does not work and it may not be granted. Your application for STEM OPT extension filed after 12 month OPT expiration, during the 60 days grace period will very likely get rejected and you cannot work, if your H1B does not get approved for some reason.

Can I work on OPT, with STEM OPT Extension in Pending ?
Yes, if you file your 24 month OPT extension on time, before your 12 month OPT expires, you may continue to work on EAD even if your previous EAD card given for 12 month is expired until your STEM OPT Extension is processed or 180 days has passed, whichever is sooner.

In a nutshell, if you are in cap gap period and you qualify for STEM OPT, do not miss the opportunity to apply for STEM OPT Extension, before your 12 month OPT expires.

What has been your experience with STEM OPT Extension ? Any other things that I have missed ?

Additional reading resources:
Univ. of Michigan STEM OPT Extension
Murthy Law firm : STEM OPT Extension & H1B Lottery


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  1. Hi this is purna

    Since I’m in CAP GAP Extended OPT Period 06/01/2021 to 09/30/2021, I thought that old Employers details are no longer needed to show in my Student SEVP Portal, then I deleted the past one-year employer details in my SEVP portal, this action changes the complete meaning of my employment information, it is showing that I am unemployed during past one year onwards, so now I want to keep the deleted employer details in the portal again, Kindly address the issue and give me the idea to fix this problem, and on other hand, I am still waiting for the result for H1B petition

    I am so grateful for your quick response

  2. Hi Admin,

    Thanks for the information! I have a question for you.

    My OPT EAD was expired on Feb 7. I applied for the STEM extension on Dec 18 ’19. However, my STEM extension case is still pending. In the meantime, my H1B petition got approved on June 22. My cap-gap is automatically approved in my SEVIS record as per my school DSO but they may take 2-3 weeks to prepare for cap-gap I20 due to lockdown order (so, I am not sure if the cap-gap I20 will have the extended work authorization on it). Also, I am not sure if I can continue working if my STEM is not approved by Aug 7 (180 days since my OPT EAD expired). Do you think it will be a good idea to send a request to expedite my STEM extension?


    • Raj,
      Yes, it does not hurt to do it. Talk to your DSO and see, if they can issue the I-20. If your H1B was approved as COS, you would likely be under cap and can work. You still have about few weeks left, so try to reach out to USCIS to expedite the request.

  3. Thanks admin. The article covers a good area. I still have some queries.
    My current 12-month OPT expires on July 11. My cap-gap has been given till Sept 30.
    On the i-20 I received from my University which I have to submit to for USCIS for 24-month STEM OPT extension, my STEM OPT start date is mentioned as October 1st (cap-gap from July 11-Sept 30). My actual expiration of 12month OPT is July 10.
    So my question here is, should o submit my request for STEM OPT now, considering my actual expiration date is July 10 that I have less than 90 days for expiration (or) should I consider that the start date is October 1st and wait till 90 days before that to submit my extension application. Much appreciated if someone can reply quickly as am running out of days.


    • Srikrishna,
      In general, your STEM OPT should start from the OPT end date, which is July 10th. You do not need to use cap gap as you have STEM OPT. Discuss with your DSO on this. Yes, you should still do the STEM OPT now, the reason is, if something happens to H1B, you still have an option to continue working…discuss with your DSO and plan.

  4. Hey, my h1B has been approved and it took into effect after Oct1. I submitted my opt stem extension on June and it is still “case received”. Do I need to do anything such as withdrawing about my opt extension case?

  5. Hi,

    My H1 application picked in the lottery. The status tracker says ‘Case Received’.
    Currently I am in USA since 1 month under Business Visa and gonna stay till June month end. Again I have a schedule to come back to US on July 1st week and leave the country on Sep 09. Again I require to travel back on Sep 22 until October 30.

    All of the above schedules are for Business travel.

    I have two queries.
    1. Can I travel these many times while the H1 is in process?
    2. If my H1 approved, Still can I travel on Business Visa as long as I do not have H1 stamping done?

    • If you have a valid business reason to travel, there should not be any problem for you. I would also recommend you to talk to your Attorney to get more clarification. Good luck on your H1 approval!

  6. I have a question regarding to H1b. This is my last chance of getting H1b lottery. However, my SEVP portal has not changed yet. Does that mean that I 100% did not get it already? Thank you.

  7. You should apply before end of original OPT period, which is 6/15. You will not get STEM OPT extension, if you do it after 6/15.

    • Thanks Kumar for your reply, but doesn’t your article say we can apply for STEM OPT Extension during the “cap-gap” period ?

      I also found this paragraph from USCIS webpage :”Students who are eligible for a cap-gap extension of post-completion OPT employment and F-1 status may apply for a STEM OPT extension during the cap-gap extension period.” (https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/temporary-workers/h-1b-specialty-occupations-and-fashion-models/extension-post-completion-optional-practical-training-opt-and-f-1-status-eligible-students-under-h-1b-cap-gap-regulations)

      • Well, you are right, the article says so. But, some of this is subject to how USCIS interprets it. If you look at STEM OPT Extension Page of USCIS, it tells that you have to be in valid OPT period when you apply for STEM OPT extension. Personally, I would rather apply on time, unless you are in dire situation and have missed it. You can check with your DSO for better clarity. You can also check the additional reading info links, they all recommend doing it when you are in valid OPT period, before it expires…

        • Thanks Kumar! The problem lies with my DSO, as they refuse to produce a new I20 for me. They said I need to wait in early July to apply for the STEM extension, since my new OPT end date is 9/30

          Will have to sue my school if that turns out to be wrong 🙂

          • I am in the same situation. My OPT is extended to 09/30 as well and it was supposed to expire on 05/23. The SEVP portal didnt allow me to apply for it before 05/23 and yesterday i met my DSO and they said since your OPT has not expired as its extended you can apply anytime within 120 days of 09/30.

          • Well, you can try sending the USCIS link that says you need to apply before it expires and see, if they get convinced. Check with an attorney via email, if you need some expert advice and use that to inform your DSO. Of course, we cannot force them I guess. You can visit a USCIS center and get opinion as well or call SEVIS helpline and get it confirmed.

  8. My original OPT end date is 6/15 & I got picked in the lottery, which means my OPT end date got extended to 9/30.

    So which end date should I adhere to when filing my STEM OPT extension ? Is it 6/15 or 9/30?


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