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Recent layoffs at companies like Google, Microsoft and Amazon, have affected many H-1B visa holders, particularly Indian IT professionals, who must find new employment within 60 days or risk leaving the country.
In a recent development, thousands of Indian IT professionals in the United States are facing a tough time finding new employment within the stipulated period under their work visas following the termination of their employment. These layoffs were a result of the series of recent layoffs at companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon.
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According to The Washington Post, nearly 2,00,000 IT workers have been laid off since November last year, including some record numbers in companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon.
Also read | IT layoffs 2023: From Microsoft, Amazon, Google to Wipro, a look at major job cuts in January
As per some industry insiders, between 30 to 40 percent of them are Indian IT professionals, a significant number of whom are on H-1B and L1 visas.
What is the visa situation like?
The H-1B visa is a type of visa that allows US companies to hire foreign workers with specific skills or expertise for specialised jobs. This visa is particularly popular among technology companies, who use it to hire a large number of workers from countries such as India and China.
L-1A and L-1B visas are designed for individuals who work in management or have specialised expertise and are being transferred within the same company to work temporarily in the US.
A significantly large number of Indian IT professionals, who are on non-immigrant work visas like H-1B are L1, are now scrambling for options to stay in the US to find a new job in the stipulated few months’ times that they get under these foreign work visas after losing their jobs and change their visa status as well.
Amazon staffer Gita (name changed) arrived in the US only three months ago. This week she was told that March 20 is her last working day.
The situation is getting worse for those on H-1B visas as they have to find a new job within 60 days or else, they would be left with no other option but to head back to India.
Under current circumstances, when all IT companies are on a firing spree, getting a job within that short period, they feel is next to impossible.
Sita (name changed), another IT professional on an H-1B visa, got laid off from Microsoft on January 18. She is a single mother. Her son is in High School Junior year, preparing for getting into college. “This situation is really hard on us,” she said.
“It is unfortunate that thousands of tech employees are facing layoffs, particularly those on H-1B visas who are facing additional challenges as they must find a new job and transfer their visa within 60 days of termination or risk leaving the country,” Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur and community leader Ajay Jain Bhutoria said.
Also read | Lockheed Martin, Accenture, TikTok: These tech firms are hiring amid global layoff spree
“This can have devastating consequences for families, including the sale of properties and disruptions to children's education. It would be beneficial for tech companies to show special consideration for H-1B workers and extend their termination date by a few months, as the job market and recruitment process can be challenging,” he said.
Assisting IT professionals
“With massive layoffs in the tech industry, January 2023 has been brutal for tech professionals. Many talented folks lost their jobs. As the tech industry is dominated by Indian immigrants, they are the highest to get impacted," Khande Rao Kand said.
“My first advice to anyone who has been laid off and has an H-1B visa will be to contact an immigration attorney and check if you qualify for any other visa status while you look for a job, as this may take some time. Apply for jobs now and try to join within the 45-day period and do not wait for 60 days,” said Lizanne Dsouza, Founder, Liz Lyn Careers.
The Global Indian Technology Professionals Association (GITPRO) and the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS) have started a community-wide initiative to assist IT professionals by connecting job seekers with job referrers and informers. Additionally, FIIDS will work towards influencing policymakers and decision-makers of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The laid-off H-1B holders need to find an H-1B sponsoring job in 60 days or leave within 10 days after becoming out of status.
"This has a huge disruption on the family lives and children's education etc. on this tax-paying and contributing legal immigrant,” Khande Rao Kand from FIIDS said.
Bhutoria said it would be beneficial for the immigration process to be redesigned to better support H-1B workers and retain highly skilled talent in the US.
Many Indian IT workers who have been recently laid off are in distress and have created various WhatsApp groups to find solutions to their difficult situation. In one of these groups, there are over 800 unemployed Indian IT workers who are sharing job openings with each other. In another group, they are discussing different visa options and receiving advice and consultancy services from volunteer immigration attorneys.
“These circumstances have such a devastating effect on us immigrants and are nerve-wracking. We are kinda lost,” said Rakesh (name changed) was laid off from Microsoft on Thursday. He is in the US on an H-1B visa.
Adding to the miseries of Indian IT professionals is the latest decision of Google that they are pausing their Green Card processing. This is primarily because, at a time when they have fired thousands of employees, they cannot be seen arguing before the USCIS that they need a foreign IT professional as a permanent resident. Other companies are expected to follow the same.
How to be prepared in such scenarios?
Given the current economic downturn and the resulting increase in layoffs, it's crucial for workers with H-1B visas to take certain precautions.
“In such unprecedented times, the only thing people in western countries can do is to always have a good network of potential employers and have their resumes with good recruitment agencies so they do not have to look for jobs at the very last second, they can pick and move even before they feel like their job is threatened,” added D'souza.
A general rule that employees should follow is to continuously develop their skills and knowledge, as those who possess expertise in in-demand technologies will have a better chance of finding employment than those who work on outdated technologies.
Inputs from PTI
(Edited by : Soham Shetty)
First Published: Jan 23, 2023 2:03 PM IST