Now that the stress and anxiety of H-1B cap is over, F-1 students whose H-1B petitions have been selected and are pending (or even approved) are likely wondering if they can travel this summer. It appears that the answer to that question is ‘no’ for F-1 students who are relying on the cap-gap provision. The cap-gap provision automatically extends F-1 status and employment authorization until October 1, 2013 for those F-1 students whose H-1B cap petition was filed before their F-1 status expired.
Current USCIS guidance indicates 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 and will need to wait until September 2013 to re-enter the United States in H-1B status.
Because an H-1B beneficiary may enter the United States up to 10 days prior to the start date of their approved H-1B visa period, F-1 visa holders who wish to travel may take a trip in September so that they can apply for the H-1B visa at a U.S. consular post abroad and return to the United States on or after September 20. However, it should also be noted that the earliest that the foreign national can start employment in H-1B status is October 1, 2013.