What Happens When H-1B Tech Workers Are Laid Off?
Tech companies have laid off over 120,000 employees this year, including Amazon, Meta and Twitter. Bloomberg reports that major tech firms sponsored 45,000 H-1B workers over the past three years and that at least 350 immigrants were affected by Meta and Twitter’s recent layoffs. What happens to foreign workers when H-1B tech workers are laid off?
What Is An H-1B Visa?
An H-1B visa is an employment-based, non-immigrant visa for temporary workers in specialty occupations such as tech and STEM jobs. There is an annual limit of 85,000 H-1B visas for highly educated and skilled foreign workers with specialized knowledge. With the current U.S. skilled labor shortage, there is high demand in the business and tech industries for H-1B visa holders. The H-1B visa permits workers to stay in the U.S. for between 3 to 6 years. They often renew their visas and stay in the U.S. for years.
H-1B is a guest worker program that allows the visa holder to petition for a green card without affecting their non-immigrant status. Many H-1B visa holders have been in the U.S. for over a decade trying to get a green card and become permanent residents. H-1B visa status does not give the visa holder any special access to becoming a permanent resident confers no special consideration.
Facts for Laid-Off H-1B Tech Workers
If an H-1B visa holder loses their job, they have 60 days or until their I-94 expires, whichever comes first, to find a new job so they can remain in the country or return home. Here are some important facts for laid-off H-1B visa holders:
- If the laid-off worker receives severance pay, the 60-day period begins after they receive their last paycheck.
- Any dependents on the H-1B visa holder have the same 60-day grace period.
- If the H-1B worker’s 60-day grace period expires but the I-94 is still valid, it does not count as unlawful presence against the worker’s ability to enter the U.S.
- If the laid-off H-1B visa holder travels outside the United States during the 60-day grace period, the grace period immediately ends.
- When they lay off H-1B workers, employers must notify federal immigration authorities of the layoff and cover the cost of a plane flight back to their home country.
- The employer is not required to pay for return travel for the employee’s dependents or personal belongings.
- The visa entitles H-1B workers to one 60-day grace period per visa.
- Under the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21), H-1B visas and Form I-140s are portable. This allows some foreign workers to change employers without losing their place in the green card line.
With all the recent tech layoffs, a group of tech immigrant activists is forming a coalition. They request executive action to extend the 60-day grace period to 180 days temporarily.
Contact A Cook and DuPage County Business Immigration Lawyer
A business immigration lawyer works with both employers who want to hire skilled foreign workers. We also work with foreign nationals who want to come to the United States to work temporarily or permanently. Godoy Law Office serves the entire Chicago, Illinois area, including DuPage, Cook, Kane, Will and Lake Counties. Contact Godoy Law Office at 630-912-0322.
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