2022 has seen many tech layoffs – Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. (11,000 jobs), Amazon (10,000), and Twitter (3,700). Other tech firms joining the layoffs wave include Stripe Inc., Lyft Inc., Shopify Inc., Coinbase Global Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Netflix Inc. Around 5-15% of the total laid-off employees are H1-B visa holders.
Surge in H-1B Demand
Computer-related occupations accounted for nearly 70% of approved H-1B recipients in the fiscal year 2021, according to statistics from US Citizenship and Immigration Services. According to the USCIS, 70% of approved H-1B recipients in FY 2021 are in computer-related occupations. There has been a surge in demand for H-1B visas to fill up STEM-related positions in the US in recent years. USCIS received 483,000 H-1B registrations for the fiscal year 2023, a 57% increase from the previous high a year before and well above the annual cap of 85,000 visas. But the status of H-1B workers becomes vulnerable in a situation like a layoff when their position is tied to an employer.
There are growing concerns about a looming economic recession due to decreased revenues and rising labor costs. This doesn’t help the situation of H-1B workers who have been laid off and need to find another job in the shrinking US job market. They have limited time to find a new employer to file a new H-1B petition.
H-1B Employer obligations safeguard the employee’s interests to some extent. Employers need to intimate the USCIS about the “material change” in the terms of the H-1B visa status. Moreover, the employer needs to cover travel expenses for the employee’s return ticket to his/her home country. The employer also needs to ensure that the employee is paid a full salary until they are notified of the layoff.
Way forward for H-1B workers
H-1B workers have a race against time – to find another job that will sponsor their H-1B. They have 60 days to either find another company to sponsor them or leave the United States.
One advantage H-1B workers who may have lost their jobs have is that they have already been counted against the annual H-1B quota, so it is relatively easier for them to find another sponsor. But the petition by a new employer needs to be submitted before the 60th day of the grace period.
H-1B workers who have been counted in the H-1B cap lottery within the last 6 years do not have to wait for the next lottery. If they cannot find another sponsor within 60 days and must leave the country, they can keep looking for US jobs from their home country. Once they find an appropriate job, the new employer can immediately apply for a petition that will allow them to move back to the US, once it is approved and visa stamping is done.
Those H-1B workers who cannot find another sponsor in 60 days, may consider changing to another temporary status to remain in the US. If you don’t have a transfer job lined up around 45 days after your termination, you can consider filing an I-539 application to change your status from H1B to B1/B2 to give yourself more time to leave the US. Alternatively, you could apply for a student visa (F-1) and go back to school.
USCIS must receive an application to change status on or before the employee’s last day of work. Once the employee is out of status, USCIS will almost certainly deny an application to change status.
There are a host of immigration firms willing to offer their expertise. Reach out to potential employers through professional networks and portals.
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