With signs of the economy headed for a downturn on the horizon, many tech companies are bracing for the worst. Layoffs at tech titans the likes of Meta, Microsoft, and Netflix earlier this year meant that thousands of workers in the industry were out of a job, sometimes months after being hired as part of a small jobs boom that occurred during 2021.
Tech companies tend to hire the best available talent, even if that talent comes from overseas. That means many of these companies may have many foreign-born employees working for them on H-1B visas. Unfortunately, however, these employees risk more than mere unemployment if they are caught up in a layoff.
I Have an H-1B Visa. What Happens If I Get Laid Off?
If you are an H-1B visa holder, a layoff may eventually force you to leave the United States. Although there is a grace period during which you can find a new employer to sponsor you while you’re still in the country, the window to find new employment can be tight as the economy continues to wane.
The grace period can last a maximum of 60 days, and your chance of benefiting from the maximum number of days increases if you can prove you are actively seeking employment.
What Happens If I Found a New Sponsor but They Can’t File the Petition in Time?
If you found a new employer in the U.S. who’s willing to sponsor you, they must file the H-1B visa petition within the grace period. If they are unable to do so, you should consult with an immigration lawyer. You may need to leave the U.S. and go to a consulate abroad to get a new H-1B visa (based on your new employer’s petition) to reenter.
What Happens If I Remain in the U.S. on My Expired Visa?
It’s not advisable to stay in the U.S. on an expired H-1B visa. You can stay in the country during the grace period while you actively search for employment, but if you simply stay on an expired visa, USCIS can deport you, and you will become unable to reenter the U.S. for at least five years.
Can I Collect Unemployment If I Am in the U.S. on an H-1B Visa?
No. Your H-1B visa is tied to your employer as your sponsor, so a termination for any reason means you are not available for immediate reemployment. Only by finding a new sponsor for another H-1B visa can you become reemployed in the U.S., which will likely disqualify you from unemployment benefits.
Other Ways to Remain in the U.S. If You Are Laid Off as an H-1B Worker
If you are laid off as an H-1B visa employee, there are two other ways you can remain in the U.S., both of which involve changing your status.
Changing to Dependent H-4 Status
If you are married and your spouse is also in the U.S. on an H-1B visa, you can change your status to Dependent H-4 within the grace period. If you successfully change to H4, you don’t have to leave the United States and can stay for as long as your spouse maintains their H-1B visa. This can give you more time to search for a new employer to sponsor another H-1B visa for you.
Changing to F-1 Student Status
If you are laid off from your job in tech, you might think it’s time for a career change. If so, you can change your status from H-1B to F-1 student and attend college or university in the United States. This allows you to pursue a higher degree as a full-time student, but this option may be limited if you already have higher degrees or if no classes are open for enrollment by the time you need to apply.
Assisting Nonimmigrant Visa Workers
We at Sebastian Simon Law Group, PLLC know that foreign-born workers are an essential part of the innovation that goes on at many companies throughout the U.S. If your employer decides to part with your experience and talent during the latest round of tech layoffs, rest assured there are ways to protect your stay in the U.S.
Sebastian Simon Law Group, PLLC can help. Learn more during a consultation with our legal team. Contact us today to get in touch!