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Layoffs — how they affected H-1B visa holders and what options they have

Layoffs — how they affected H-1B visa holders and what options they have
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By Nishtha Pandey  Nov 29, 2022 10:53:02 AM IST (Updated)

Layoffs 2022: Job losses are dominating the news headlines these days with major companies like Twitter, Microsoft, Meta, and Amazon announcing layoffs. Laid-off employees with H-1B visas have been particularly affected — here are the options they have and how they can be prepared.

“I am on an H-1B visa and my clock to leave the USA has started today,” Raju Kadam — former Senior Technical Program Manager at Meta — wrote on LinkedIn after he lost his job when Facebook’s parent company Meta started the exercise of firing 13 percent of its 11,000-strong workforce.

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Layoffs are dominating news headlines these days, with major companies like Twitter, Microsoft, Meta, Intel, HP and Amazon starting to let go of. Laid-off employees with H-1B visas have been particularly affected by the layoffs, as they have roughly 60 days to find a new sponsor.
“Just like any other Indian, I was also excited to come to the US and work, but now I guess I would have to go back as after being laid off — I just have 60 days to find a new job in this holiday season, when recession in the US is at its peak,” said Sahil Batra, who recently got fired from Amazon .
What are H-1B visa terms?
An H-1B Visa allows US employers to hire highly skilled workers in specialised fields such as information technology, finance engineering, architecture, and accounting. In the event of being laid off, an individual has 60 days to find a new job or they must leave the USA for their home country.
“Therefore, if your employment ends on the weekend, you will have up to 60 days to secure another employer to file an H-1B petition on your behalf, change your status, or leave the United States. In order to maintain your legal status under H-1B, you must be employed and receive a salary, as specified in your employer's H-1B petition,” said Daya Prakash, Founder, TalentOnLease
Due to the recent layoffs of such visa holders at big tech companies, there has been an influx of people seeking jobs. Another problem that unemployed H-1B visa holders face is the fact that many companies will slow down their hiring processes during the Christmas period — this may cause problems for people whose family is in the States or whose kids are in school.
“I have been living in the USA for the past eight years and I just joined Meta a year ago, I have two sons who are US citizens and now that I have been laid off, I need to find a job under all the pressure or we would need to relocate back to India. The time constraint feels like a bomb ticking everyday,” said Vipul Mehta, who was part of the product team at Meta.
What are their options? 
“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.
She further added that there are some discounts on visa applications that are provided by the government for employers that are employing candidates under this category so it wouldn't hurt to speak to potential employers to take advantage of that.
Moreover, people who don’t have any family liabilities should try looking for jobs in other countries. For H-1B workers who cannot find a job after being laid off, they can apply for an I-539, which changes their status to B-2. In essence, this visa is a tourist visa, which gets the worker out of immigration hassles for some time, but they cannot work in the US, so they must have savings to support themselves.
Anshuman Das, CEO and co-founder of Careernet, advises candidates who are let go to for alternative opportunities with stable organisations at similar or lower pay packages.
“It is a matter of a few months before the market slowdown will come to an end and things will begin stabilising,” he added.
Further, candidates are required to file a petition for H-1B visa after 60 days of being laid off in that case if you are you're actively looking for work and can show that you've sent out applications, talked to potential employers, or interviewed for new employment — your next H-1B employer is likely to have the full 60 days to submit its petition for you.
“Things get risky if the person with H-1B visa who has been laid off is not looking for jobs and submits a petition on day 60. Then, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may deny the status extension part of the petition, and you may have to go home to get a new H-1B visa before you can start working for your new employer,” said Prakash.
Prakash explained further that another option which candidates with families have is to alter their status from H-1B to H-4 dependent if their spouse happens to be employed in the United States on an H-1B visa.
“If your spouse has valid H-1B status, you will be able to extend your stay in the country under H-4 status. This would give you enough time to apply for work authorization and find a new position,” said Prakash.
How to be prepared in such scenarios?
With layoffs becoming frequent as recession and economic downturn deal a double blow to profits, it's important for employees with an H-1B visa to keep some things in check.
“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 Dsouza.
Prakash advises candidates to start preparing their finances, medical requirements, and personal belongings as soon as they learn that there could be possible layoff.
“You have a much wider range of options now that more jobs are hybrid or remote. Create an 'elevator pitch' outlining your strengths and potential impact areas before attending interviews,” said Prakash.
A thumb rule that all employees should keep in mind is to keep upskilling with time, as those who work on in-demand technologies will have a better chance than those who work on outdated ones.
Meanwhile Das advises candidates to be open to the available employment opportunities in the market especially emerging in the contract job market.
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