Updated: As the Coronavirus pandemic continues its deathly spread and claims over 280,000 lives and infects nearly four million people worldwide, global economies are taking a big hit. With close to 33 million people filing for unemployment in the US alone, the impact has been a 4% contraction in global economy.
This unemployment has affected foreign skilled-workers in the US as well including those on H1B visa, a nonimmigrant work visa for foreign graduate level workers. They are allowed to work in the US for a period of three years, extendable by another three. The Coronavirus-triggered economic recession in the US is increasing the number of lay-offs and furloughs which changes this time-frame quickly. For H1B employees, their rights to stay within the US is tied to their employment.
What You Should Know About H1-B Job Loss
- In several states within the US, jobs are “at will’ which means the employer is not obligated to give you a reason for termination and can terminate your employment for lawful reasons at any time.
- For H1-B visa holders, you have 60 days to find another employer who can continue the H1-B sponsorship or seek to change the visa status to another valid one, if laid off.
- This is also dependent upon the expiry of the current H1-B visa status. Nevertheless, you will be treated like any other US citizen employee with the similar company policies that apply to a them but unable to claim certain state offered unemployment benefits.
- It’s a different scenario if you already have an employee contract in place, in which case you should ensure you and your employer abide by that.
- Once terminated, the employer is obligated to notify USCIS about the termination at which point USCIS too, has to take action and revoke the H1B granted under the employee’s name.
- At this point, you begin to accrue unlawful status. Staying in the US over 180 days under the unlawful status has serious consequences that can range from not being allowed to enter the US anywhere between three to ten years.
What Can You Do If You Get Laid-Off On H1-B?
- Talk to Manager/HR: Usually, you will be first given a warning by your employer. This can be as early as three months in advance. Either talk to them and find an alternative of transferring to another department or taking a leave of absence to find another H1-B sponsoring employer and work on transferring your I-129 petition.
- Documents for grace period: Once the 60-day grace period kicks in, not only should you have been actively looking for another H1-B sponsoring employer but also collate substantiating evidence of the same. USCIS expects you to provide evidence in the form of active pay stubs and all forms of recruitment documentation like offer letters, requests for interviews, etc. that reflect your search efforts.
- Change of Status: Seeking a change of status is another alternative. This could be H4, in case they have a H1-B beneficiary spouse or to F1, student visa. This of course, has to coincide with college admissions and acceptance to an accredited university in the US.
- H1B Alternatives: Some employers have the option of bringing in foreign talent under a L1A, intra-company transfer. These have criteria like being at a managerial level and in some cases, being an employee in the parent company at the country of origin for at least a year.
- Relocation Costs: If this is not possible, or if the current visa status expires sooner than the 60-day period and the employee ends up leaving, it is advisable to inquire if the employer has made arrangements to fund the relocation costs back to country of citizenship, or original residence. This is applicable only for the H1B employee and not the dependent family.
Are you looking to explore the L1 visa?
Know the difference between H1B and L1 Visas
- Lastly:The important thing to note is to do all of the above when still in (current) status else USCIS may ask you to leave and come back with one.
Once you find a new H1B Sponsoring Employer – Next Steps
- The new employer will have to file a Labor Certification Application for the Department of Labor. Only then can they file a I-129 petition on your behalf with the new employer’s name in lieu of the sponsor.
- As an employee, you may have to submit supporting documents like the new job offer letter, educational qualifications for the new job, support documents to justify eligibility for specialty occupation, and in some circumstances, pay-stubs for the time you were looking for a job until you find one with the new employer.
- You should expect to receive an I-797C Notice of Action receipt from USCIS before positioning yourself in the new role.
- An H1-B transfer approval notice from USCIS secures your right to work with the new employer.
Are you are looking to file a H1B petition?
Here’s a step-by-step guide to make your process easier