A presidential advisory sub-committee has recommended that the federal government extend the grace period for thousands of retrenched H-1B workers from the existing 60 days to 180 days so that they have enough opportunities to find a new job or other alternatives.
Thousands of highly skilled foreign-born workers, including Indians, in the US, have lost their jobs due to the series of recent layoffs at companies like Google, Microsoft and Amazon.
They are now struggling to find new employment within the stipulated 60-day period under their work visas following the termination of their employment to stay in the country.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
The current 60-day grace period presents numerous hurdles, including finding a new job within a tight timeframe, complex paperwork for transferring H-1B status, and delays in processing at USCIS, he said. The H-1B visa holders face significant consequences when they are laid off from their jobs. After termination, they have a 60-day grace period during which they must either leave the United States, seek a change of immigration status, or have another employer file an H-1B petition on their behalf. If they do not do so within 60 days, they are considered to be in violation of the terms of their non-immigrant visa.
However, if a new employer files a new H-1B petition for the visa holder within 60 days of a previous employer’s termination, the change of employer petition will typically be granted even if there was a gap in the employee’s H-1B status.
The workers encounter many barriers that make it difficult for them to complete all requirements for maintaining their status within the current 60-day grace period. The job market can be challenging, which is especially true for workers in specialised fields, he said.
According to The Washington Post, nearly 200,000 IT workers have been laid off since November last year, including some record numbers in companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon.
As per some industry insiders, between 30 to 40 per cent of them are Indian IT professionals, a significant number of whom are on H-1B and L1 visas.