Improved Rules for H1B Visa Holders Announced

On November 18, 2016, a final rule on the H1B visa program was published by the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to improve the employment-based non-immigrant and immigrant visa programs amidst the upcoming presidency.

Effective January 17, 2017, Terminated H1B workers will be granted a 60-day grace period preparing to depart from the country. This grace period will allow individuals substantial time to either sort out their paperwork and seek alternative employment/visa sponsorship in the United States or handle their closing affairs to leave the country, without violating their immigration status and jeopardizing their chances of obtaining future immigration benefits. While the existing rules do not specifically state that terminated H1B workers must leave the country immediately, there have been cases in which this has occurred, leaving these workers in tough situations as they are forced to return to their home countries unexpectedly.

Having this grace period explicitly in writing is said to streamline the process more effectively as well as eliminate any confusion from either party. The recently announced improvements regarding H1B visas specifically, were put in place to make the program friendlier to those already on it as well as put in writing many of DHS’s policies and practices that were otherwise unclear.