US likely to extend grace period for laid-off H-1B visa holders

Representational Image. Photo: iStock/ lakshmiprasad S

Washington DC: Thousands of H1-B visa holders who lost jobs in the US could be given more time to change their immigration status or secure a new job.

Considering the plight of the jobless visa holders, a Presidential sub-committee on security has recommended extension of the grace period from 60 to 180 days in order to provide adequate time for laid-off workers to find new jobs. The proposal was mooted by Ajay Jain Bhutoria, a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. In a detailed presentation, Bhutoria argued that in the event of skilled workers leaving the US, it would be a big loss for the nation.

Another proposal is to allow applicants for the Green Card to start working in the US without delay. A Green Card allows permanent residence in the US and this move also is expected to benefit a large number of people from India.

Lay-offs continue

Continuing lay-offs in major global tech firms, especially those based in the US, have spread panic among IT professionals. The latest development on this front is the sacking of 10,000 employees announced by Meta, the parent firm of Facebook owned by Mark Zuckerberg.

In fact, numerous people have lost their jobs with tech giants such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon in the US, and many of them hail from India. As per data, in the US alone 2,00,000 people have been laid off since November 2022 of whom 30-40 per cent are Indians.

The worst-affected among them are professionals who arrived from other nations to the US with an H-1B visa. According to immigration rules in the US, H1-B visa holders who lose jobs have a grace period of 60 days to find another employment. In other words, workers with an H1-B visa who are laid off have to change their immigration status or join a new job within 60 days. If they are unable to do either of these, the workers would be deported from the US.

A non-immigrant visa, H1-B enables companies in the US to appoint workers who are experts in technology from other countries. US firms utilize this provision to employ tens of thousands of professionals each year from India and China.

Current situation

People holding H1-B visas who have been laid off are currently struggling to find new jobs. The intense competition in the US employment market has made the condition of these job-seekers difficult. Moreover, tech firms in the US often conduct four or five rounds of interviews to select new personnel and the process could last several weeks.

There is delay in the procedures at the Immigration Department in the US and changing the immigration status also takes much time.

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