As many people in the tech industry can attest, 2022 has been a down year, with many tech employers slashing payroll. Losing one’s job in a round of layoffs is traumatizing for most workers, but it is especially so if you’re a non-citizen who’s here on a temporary work visa. If you’re in the U.S. on an H-1B or another work visa and your employer lays you off, you must act quickly. If you have questions about your immigration status, be sure you get the advice you need by consulting an experienced Maryland immigration lawyer.
The 2022 tech layoffs hit especially hard in the social media and financial areas. As CNBC reported, Facebook parent Meta shed 11,000 jobs and Twitter cut 3,700. Cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase and online payment processor Stripe each laid off around 1,100 workers. On the year, tech employers have shed between 90,000-150,000 jobs (depending on who you ask,) with 45,000 of those happening in a November flurry of layoffs.
If you’re in this country on an H-1B visa, the termination of your employment doesn’t mean that your status immediately becomes “illegal,” but it does mean that the “clock” is on. The federal immigration regulations (specifically, 8 CFR Section 214.1) give you a 60-day “grace period” during which you can find a new employer to submit a new H-1B petition for you.
Alternative Visa Options Beyond H-1B Worker Visas
If, however, you do not believe that you can obtain new employment within 60 days, you may still have other options allowing you to stay in the country legally. Potentially, depending on when your employer laid you off, you could gain admission to a college or university and change your visa status from H-1B to F-1 student. Alternatively, if your spouse is also working here on an H-1B visa (and didn’t get laid off,) then his/her status helps you. You can switch from H-1B status to H-4 dependent status. You can stay in the U.S. legally on an H-4 visa for as long as your spouse maintains his/her H-1B status. If you subsequently land a new job, you can change from H-4 back to H-1B status.
There’s another avenue that does not require you to reclassify under a different status. As long as you are on your current employer’s payroll, your H-1B status is unchanged and the 60-day grace-period clock won’t start running. So if your current (soon to be former) employer agrees to keep you on the payroll for an additional duration of time, then that gives you an extra period to get a new job. For example, many of the H-1B workers for Meta received four months of severance when the social media giant laid them off. According to a BuzzFeed News report, several of those workers asked Meta to instead keep them on the payroll for those four months, which would have the effect of giving them an extra four months to find a new job.
The rules for maintaining legal status if you’ve lost your H-1B employment in a round of layoffs can be strict and unforgiving. If you have questions about your options and the avenues for avoiding returning to your home country, get in touch with the knowledgeable Maryland work visa attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to get the help you need with completing the processes necessary to maintain legal status.