How to renew Driving License on OPT Cap Gap Information Details

How to Renew Driver License during OPT Cap Gap? SAVE Verify, FAQs

In F1 Visa by KumarUpdated : 18 Comments

If you are in US as F1 student and working in either OPT or STEM OPT, it is critical for you to have to have the ability to drive to work or move around. Many of the OPT students, who have applied for H1B Petition with USCIS and picked in H1B lottery, would be in Cap Gap situation. The OPT Cap Gap allows them to work until September 30th. During this time, some of them would be in situation, where their driver’s license would be expiring, and they need to renew it. It is a tricky situation and some DMV’s are not aware of this and may not allow to renew the driver’s license. Many of our users have faced similar issues and shared their experiences. We will cover the overall process, official guidance by ICE to renew Driver’s license during OPT Cap gap. Thanks to our reader rickgrey for sharing experience, info with the community. Really appreciate it !

Before we dive into solution, let us look at the actual issue and why it is tricky.

What is the issue to renew Driving License during OPT Cap Gap ?

Most of the DMVs in US issue Driver’s license for F1 students on OPT until end of their OPT or STEM OPT. The tricky part is for students, who applied for H1B with pending/ approved Change of Status (COS) petition with USCIS. They are considered to be in cap gap period. Basically, after their OPT period ends, their F1 status is tracked as Cap Gap Extension in SEVIS system until Sept 30th. That cap gap status information is not fully reflected in the SAVE system that DMV uses to verify the status of the F1 student.  

What is USCIS SAVE System ? What is its importance for Driving License at DMV ?

 Most of the DMVs across the nation use USCIS online system SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements). In general, when someone goes to DMV and applies for driver license or renewal of existing license, the DMV officers check the status of individual using USCIS SAVE System and if the system does not give the status verification they want, they will not issue the driving license, even if you show physical copies of Cap Gap I-20.  This varies by state, but most of the states would not issue driving license, just based on the documents you show, they need to verify the status details in SAVE system.

Now that we know what the issue is and importance of SAVE, let’s dive in to look at the official guidance by ICE ( US Immigration and Customs Enforcement )

What is the official guidance from ICE for Cap Gap Status in context of Driving License Renewal and SAVE Verification ?

ICE ( US Immigration and customs enforcement) recommends that the F1 student in OPT Cap Gap inform regarding the pending or approved H1B petition with USCIS to their School’s DSO(Designated School Official) and get the new cap gap extension I-20. The New I20 generated with Cap Gap extension will have details on Page 3 that tells details regarding the Cap Gap extension status, employment authorization and the supporting regulation details in Comments section on I-20 related to Cap gap ( see below screenshot of page 3 of I-20). F1 students in cap gap need to show that I-20 and DMV will use that information on Page 3 for the proof of lawful status. Check below screenshots of regulation from official DMV Factsheet by ICE .

OPT Cap Gap Driving License Renewal Official Rule by ICE

Also, ICE gives guidance that the DMV should submit a document verification request to SAVE officer for manual verification.  Below is the screenshot of guidance from the same DMV factsheet by ICE I mentioned above. Now, USCIS SAVE system is pretty much online and no need to use manual forms, the DMV will know how to file the SAVE request online. Ask their supervisor or you can even apply at SAVE Case Check USCIS

How to contact SEVIS for DMV issues

OPT cap-gap Extension Status printed on Page 3 of I-20 Generated by DSO after updating SEVIS System :

OPT Cap Gap Extension Page 3 of I-20 with Detaisl of Status in Comments Section

How to renew driver’s license during OPT Cap Gap  ? Process and Steps

The process and guide below is based on official guidance and experiences by our readers.

Step 1 : Gather Documents Related to F1 OPT Cap Gap:

You need to gather all the required documents to got to DMV office. Below are the various documents and print outs you would need. Once you have these ready, go to the DMV office.   

Documents Checklist for Driver License Renewal in Cap Gap

  • Valid Passport
  • I-94 Arrival/ Departure Card/Form (Check, Print I-94 Online )
  • Updated I-20 after cap gap given by DSO
  • EAD Card related to your OPT or STEM OPT
  • H1B Visa Receipt Notice or Approval Notice (if you have it)
  • SSN Card
  • (Optional) Your current employment proof like paystubs or employment letter.

OPT Cap Gap Rules Documents from ICE, USCIS for Driving License, Status

  • Download the Official US ICE DMV Factsheet and print it out. Carry the entire printed document,  the DMV office would use page 4 for SAVE system. It is the same screenshot that you saw above.
  • Go to USCIS.gov Page on OPT and F1 Status, expand the section “Proof of Continuing Status” and then print out the page from USCIS.gov page. You will need this page for the SAVE system verification as well. See below screenshot
Proof of F1 Lawful Status for OPT Working USCIS Document

Step 2 : Visit DMV and Submit Documents – SAVE Verification:

At DMV, it is up to you how you handle it. Either you can proactively explain your situation that you are in cap gap or you can let them handle normal way and then you share the details as requested. In general, the officer or agent handling your Driving License renewal will ask for your valid documents to prove your lawful immigration status. You should provide your Cap Gap I-20 and H1B Receipt/ Approval Notice copy.  They either will check the SAVE system and say that they cannot verify the status or say, these are not sufficient. Then you need to show them the two documents that you printed out that show official cap gap rules for the status from ICE and USCIS.gov website. If the officer/ agent handling your case is not aware or never done it before, ask for their supervisor officer, they can help out. In any case, you need to ask them to submit for SAVE manual verification by uploading the below documents:

  • Copy of Cap Gap I-20 Issued by your DSO
  • H1B Receipt / Approval Notice ( as needed)
  • ICE DMV Factsheet page that talks about the Cap Gap Status ( screenshot above )
  • USCIS.gov Cap Gap OPT website page that has “Proof of Continuing Status”

You will get a SAVE Case number for tracking. You can ask them for the same.  The SAVE team will review the request manually and update the verification status to the DMV. Get the phone number from DMV to check the status of your SAVE verification request.

Step 3 – Wait for DMV to update:

Usually the SAVE requests take about a week or so to be completed. Once your SAVE request is through and your status come as valid/pass , the DMV will very likely notify you. If you do not hear back, you should proactively follow up with them after a week to check, if the SAVE request is processed or not.

Step 4 – Visit DMV, Collect License : 

Once your SAVE request is through, you need to visit DMV and collect your license. Depending on the DMV, your license maybe usually given until September 30th,  you will need to again visit DMV on October 1st and get your Driving License renewed until the end of H1B ending date or in increments of one year depending on the policy of DMV.  

Common FAQs on OPT Cap Gap Driving License Renewal :

What if the DMV I visited is not friendly or not accepting this Process  ?

Every state is different, and some DMVs may not be friendly or understand these rules. If the DMV is not friendly and not accepting your request or not helping you, you should visit another DMV in the state and try your luck.  Also, if you are out of luck going to multiple DMVs, then you can consider going to Congressman and seeking help to give a letter or ask them to help out by showing all your documentation.

Is SAVE verification mandatory for all states to get Driving License Renewal ?

In general, most of the states DMV and other state agencies use SAVE program for verifying lawful status of an individual. You can verify, those agencies enrolled in SAVE program by using SAVE Search Tool and look up by state or zip code.

My OPT is ending soon and waiting for STEM OPT Extension approval, how does it work with 180 days grace period ? Can I get Driving license for this ?

You can try the same process described above. If it does not work, you can ask DMV if they would accept the SAVE Verification document, if you do it on your own. If DMV says yes, you first email SAVE at  [email protected] explaining your situation and then based on their response, submit Form G-845 from USCIS.gov, along with supporting documentation as requested by them.  They will email you the verification letter in a week or so and you can take that verification letter and go back to DMV to get the Driving license. Couple of users used this process, when they were waiting for STEM OPT approval.

Is the SAVE Verification document process free to Students ?

Yes, it is free for the OPT student or anyone using the benefit. The agency like DMV works with the SAVE division separately and pays them as needed.

How many times do I need to go to DMV to get this process completed? Experiences ?

Ideally, it everything goes well, you should get it done in two visits. Our reader rickgrey had to visit 6 times to DMV. You can check experience of visiting DMV for Driving License renewal in Cap Gap

Whom should I contact, if I need more info with SAVE ?

If you are stuck somewhere, you should email [email protected] for help.

What has been your experience with renewing Driving License in Cap Gap ? Share your thoughts, experiences in comments.

   

Other Articles


Comments ( 18 )

  1. Rejeesh

    My 5 cents:

    I was in a similar situation – my US license has expired while I was on OPT, but I had a Canadian license that was still active and received a year ago. DMV accepted I-20, but required me to go through both computer and driving tests. When they figured out I also had a license from another state prior to that, they have also requested an official driving extract from that state. Needless to say that both appointments for tests as well as getting abstract in a time of Covid was almost impossible, so I went to 3 other DMVs around to try and get a second opinion. In the 3rd DMV I did not mention a Canadian or another state’s license, an the DMV lady just renewed my license… My advice is to be quiet and not give them the info you are not asked for.

  2. Kiiki

    Hi Kumar, thanks for this article. I am currently dealing with this and I don’t think the CA DMW is trained on this process. You mentioned SSN Card. Do you mean the original card or a copy? Not sure I am comfortable with releasing my original SSN card to the DMV which is infamous for losing documentations all the time. Your guidance will be appreciated.

  3. Fedotov

    Below is the COVID-19 driver’s cap-gap driver’s license renewal attempt in Massachusetts. Haymarket RMV. Partial progress here. Thanks Kumar for writing this post, it helped me a lot to navigate my way through this hell.

    FYI, my H1B is pending with an RFE, I’m on a cap-gap. This is for Massachusetts folks, for others it can be different.

    1. Don’t try to extend online, it wouldn’t work.
    2. One needs an appointment for “lawful presence verification”. Ideally one should be able to make an appointment online, but I had no open slots, so I called the Department of Licensing (I’ve got their number from last year’s fight with the RMV, it’s an internal number, but gets you immediately to an RMV person. People there are usually aware of the cap-gap issues and they will make an appointment) – 857-368-8110
    3. Get all the documents for the appointment. I-20, receipt notice, expired EAD, etc. You can also download and print official USCIS guidance (http://www.laborimmigration.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/f-m-j-holders-drivers-licenses.pdf), but the RMV stuff will most certainly either ignore them or tell you that “they’re aware”
    4. I’ve spent a full hour there. Although I have mentioned I am here to validate the lawful presence and initiate the SAVE manual verification case, they tried to extend my driver’s license anyway, to no avail. Finally the fourth person I talked to, who seemed to be the highest manager there, was able to initiate this verification. Prior to that, they took a photo of me twice, and also asked to pass an eye test (using a dirty, non-sanitized machine!).  
    5. After the SAVE verification case is initiated, you have to wait 3-5 days, and then both SAVE and RMV will send a letter that verification case has been approved. With this letter, you should make another appointment. I am at this stage – and will keep you updated on how the second appointment goes.

    Feel free to share my experience if it’s valuable! Happy to give more details.

    1. administrator
      Kumar

      Fedotov,
      Thanks for sharing. Lot of pain to go through this…
      Once you get the appointment and license thing done, please share it here or send an email to [email protected], I will post it to the above article so that it will help others.
      Good Luck buddy !

    2. PandaGuru

      Thanks Fedotov! Very helpful! I am in a similar position in MA. How were you able to keep talking to more people until you found someone who could start the verification? As in, how were you successful in preventing them from dismissing your case entirely? Do you remember the name or title of the person who initiated the process for you?

      1. Fedotov

        Hi PandaGuru,

        To answer your question, you just have to be extremely assertive, but not annoying if possible. I don’t remember the name, but it was the guy wearing a “Patriots” mask, I think he’s a big boss in the Haymarket RMV. After the clerk was unable to renew my DL, I asked for a supervisor. When the supervisor couldn’t do anything, I asked for a supervisor’s supervisor. Then I asked for a manager. A manager is someone who can actually initiate your case. Just be assertive. Be sure that you are ELIGIBLE for the DL by the law. Keep insisting on your eligibility and keep repeating you need a SAFE case initiated.

        Now here’s my update on my visit to the RMV today.
        I was able to renew the DL today, for the full year, not just till Sep 30th.
        On Friday I have received a letter from RMV that my SAVE status has been verified. Came today (called for an appointment, couldn’t book anything online), stood for almost two hours in the direct sun outside, despite having an appointment.
        Inside, a clerk looked at my SAVE verification letter and went straight to her supervisor;
        Then she came back and said that I cannot do anything until I get the H1B approval;
        I was blunt and said she’s wrong and that I demand a supervisor. A supervisor was a very strong, almost aggressive woman. At first she told me that my DL cannot be extended, but I pulled the USCIS guidelines and read lines from there out loud.
        She said: ok, give me your I-20, I-94, passport, etc.
        She played around with the docs for 10 minutes, scanned them, and then said – ok, $10
        I paid $10 and she gave me a temporary license.

        It was a very unpleasant exchange and I was already toasted by the outside heat, but I managed to restrain my temper. I saw a guy who didn’t and complained – they called police on him and officers took him away, so be careful.

        Bottom line:
        DL extension on cap gap took me:
        – 2 visits to the RMV
        – Around 4 phone calls to the RMV’s department of licensing (see the phone number in my original comment above)
        – One (thankfully, free) consultation with an immigration attorney, and…
        – Lots of nerves

        1. PandaGuru

          Thanks so much for updating. One would hope that for a city with so many international students, Boston would have RMVs that could deal with this stuff without people having to explain the rules to them. Congratulations on the success!

          When the staffer said that you needed an approval and the supervisor said she couldn’t renew, what part specifically did you show them? Hopefully they’ll remember your case when I go in later, but just in case i Have to furnish similar documents, I’d like to print this information out and bring it with me. Did they ask about the requirement of 12 months of valid stay that they sometimes like to throw out?

          Did the consultation with the immigration attorney help? Do you recommend the one you went to?

  4. Sagar Solanki

    Hello,

    I have graduated in Dec 2019 and my Texas driving license is valid till Feb 29, 2020. I have received my initial OPT EAD card which is valid till Feb 09, 2020. How can I renew my driving license?
    Any inputs are appreciated!

    Thanks,
    Sagar Solanki

    1. administrator
      Kumar

      Sagar,
      Talk to your DSO, get your I-20 updated to reflect the future OPT dates and then go to the DMV. It is a mistake on your OPT, talk to DSO and get clarify on why your OPT is for less duration…

  5. KC

    Kumar,

    I stay in Florida. I need yiur guidence on how I get my DL extension after my I94 extn..My extn case is pending. I do not have received yet..i know i am elegible to stay legally upto 240 days if no decision on my case. What documents can help me to get my DL?
    KC

    1. administrator
      Kumar

      KC,
      It all varies by state, you need to take your receipt notices and give it a try. Follow the above process. Do share update on how it goes.

      1. KC

        Kumar,
        Definately I will share..I talked with my company attorney. They suggest to take receipt, they will also provide me legal employment letter..let see how it works.

        1st week of August my L1B to L1A reclassification approved. Now applied 2 more year extn….

        Regards,
        KC

          1. KC

            Kumar,
            I am still waiting for receipt notice. But it works fir my wife with her I539 receipt notice. It took 10 min to get DL. It they issued paper DL for 2 months and told it will come to home address..that will be for 1 year. They shown her all expired i94, visa etc..but, ssn, valid passport.

            Regards
            Kc

          2. KC

            Kumar,

            I got DL for 1 year. DMV officer want to see my all expired documents.. addtionally , passport, i140 received notice, i129 received notice and SSN. No hassle..
            KC

Leave a Comment

Comments Policy :
  • Comments are to drive conversation, add your thoughts, experiences, ask questions!
  • Do NOT write hate speech, swear words, or get into fight. Maintain etiquette
  • Enter your Name, valid Email, URL(optional - Facebook, LinkedIn profile URLs).
  • Your email will NOT be published. Do NOT post any phone numbers, email-ids
  • Do NOT post any links from other websites, unless official sites, University websites.
  • By submitting your comment, you agree to Term and Conditions of our website.