What Options Do Nonimmigrant Workers Have After Losing Employment?

Losing your job, whether it be termination or layoff, is stressful for anyone. However, it can be even more difficult to deal with for nonimmigrant workers who are in the US on a work visa. It can bring a lot of uncertainty around next steps and what options you have for finding new work and staying in the US. 

The USCIS has created a new resource page on their website to provide options for those who are in the US on a work visa and have lost their employment. As a work visa holder, you have several options after losing employment to be able to remain in the United States on authorized stay. Here are some of the options you have when seeking to remain in the US.

60-Day Grace Period

For specific work visas, there is a discretionary grace period that allows you to maintain your status after losing employment for up to 60 calendar days, or until the end of the authorized validity period (whichever is shorter). These visas include E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, O-1, or TN classifications (and their dependents).

During this 60 day period, a work visa holder can find a new employer to sponsor them. The new employer will need to file a petition on your behalf along with an extension of stay request. You may also file an application to change your nonimmigrant status from a work visa to another visa, such as a B-2 visitor visa, or an application for adjustment of status. 

If you aren’t able to file a change of status or find a new sponsor quickly enough, you may have to leave the United States once your grace period expires. 

Starting With a New Employer

If you were on an H-1B visa, you are able to start working for your new employer as soon as they file a new H-1B petition for you with the USCIS. The petition does not have to be approved for you to begin working. 

If you have an adjustment of status application (Form I-485) that has been pending for at least 180 days along with an underlying valid immigrant visa petition (Form I-140), then you are able to transfer the underlying immigrant visa petition to a new offer of employment as long as they are in the same or similar occupational classification. 

Change of Status

Within your 60 day grace period, you can apply to change your nonimmigrant status. This includes changing your status to become the dependent of a spouse. Some spouses of nonimmigrant workers may be eligible for employment authorization if certain conditions are met.

Other statuses you can apply to change to include student or visitor. However, it is important to note that B-1/B-2 visitor visas specifically do not permit working in the United States. Certain student visas are allowed to work in limited capacities.

Note

As long as you file a valid change of status application, your stay will remain lawful even if your application is pending and your 60-day grace period has passed. If your application is approved, then your status is changed and you will be considered to have been in a period of authorized presence during the application’s pending time. If it is denied, then you will begin occurring unlawful presence the day after you receive the denial decision. 

Adjustment of Status

You may also be eligible to file a self-petitioned immigrant visa petition along with an adjustment of status application. Self-petition classifications include EB-1, EB-2, or EB-5. If you have  a pending adjustment application, generally you’ll be able to remain in the US and obtain an EAD.

Compelling Circumstances Employment Authorization Document

If you have an employment-based visa, you may qualify for a compelling circumstances EAD for up to one year. Working on a compelling circumstances EAD will be considered as a period of authorized stay but will not allow you to maintain your nonimmigrant status. 

If you do decide to leave the US after involuntarily losing your job, all reasonable costs of transportation to your home country will be paid by your employer. Once back in your home country, you can try to find new work in the US if you still have your H-1B status or you can seek readmission in another classification. 

For more information on options for nonimmigrants after losing employment, visit the USCIS resource page on the topic.

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