H-1B workers have 60 days to find a job or leave country.
The tech industry in Silicon Valley has, for a long time, considered the act of hiring to be more than just filling a vacant position. Talent wars to attract the best and the brightest have been around for many decades and accelerated as technology companies grew during the pandemic. However, as the world has recovered, e-commerce activity has stalled, resulting in tens of thousands of layoffs in the past few months. While all laid-off workers are entering a very competitive market, H-1B workers face a particularly challenging situation.
Tech Layoffs Leave H-1B Visa Holders Scrambling for New Jobs
The recent string of tech layoffs has left many workers who are living in the United States on temporary visas scrambling to find another job before their time is up and they have to leave the country. One of the biggest issues H-1B visa holders face is they only have a set amount of time to find another job, change their visa, or leave America. Typically, the 60-day grace period begins on the final day of employment. Time is of the essence when it comes to getting everything in order, and filing a visa transfer, for example, can take time.
If an H-1B worker loses their job in the U.S., companies are responsible for financially aiding them to return back home. With the recent wave of layoffs, the degree of support these organizations have given immigrant employees varies, and many sponsored workers say they feel lost and without direction from their companies.
Stripe, the payment processing software company, offered consultations and help with changing visa status to those affected. Lyft said it would be willing to keep workers on its payroll for a few extra weeks, even if they weren’t working. Mark Zuckerberg, the Meta CEO, notified employees that visa holders would be given “notice periods” before their visa clock starts ticking and assistance from immigration specialists.
“Essentially, our advice on H-1Bs is that it is important for those on the visas to ensure they remain in status and leave within the grace period,” said Anindita A. Chowdhury, the founder and managing attorney of USILaw Inc. “This will preserve their status, and they can do a transfer abroad to a new company. These individuals are often sought after by employers in the U.S. who may need visa-ready H-1B employees.”
Gaurav Khanna, an economist at UC San Diego, stated that visa uncertainty like this could make the U.S. less appealing to immigrant workers. “What it’s doing is essentially directing this kind of global talent to other countries,” Khanna said. According to Khanna, countries such as Canada have made their immigration policies more accessible for foreign tech workers.
Despite Layoffs, Tech Workers Are Still in Demand
Some experts estimate that there could be up to 50,000 out-of-work tech people in the Bay Area job market over the next few months. In the current job market, employees will be paid less and forced to accept positions they would have rejected in better times.
In general, there is still a demand for tech talent. But now that the tech industry is in a downturn, workers who previously could have counted on dozens of job offers will have to compete with thousands of other people for available positions. If tech workers were to lose their job in the past, they would have no trouble finding another one due to the sheer number of open positions.
The layoff of a significant number of workers will lead to more competition in the job market. The current state of the tech industry provides a unique opportunity for those with in-demand skills. It also gives companies renewed negotiating power when it comes to salaries and benefits.
For more on this topic, listen to the One Take with Kelli Duehning at BAL as well as this NPR story.