What options do terminated H1B employees have?
In prior years, there was usually a lot of excitement building up towards the period when the US Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) opens the period for accepting H1B petitions. But this year is different.
Beginning last quarter of 2022 up to the present, giant tech employers have been announcing mass layoffs of thousands of their employees citing economic uncertainty and fear of a coming recession. While there are no exact figures of how many are holders of H1B visas among those who were terminated, we are receiving a lot of inquiries by terminated H1B holders on what options they have to continue staying in the United States.
Generally, an H1B visa holder must leave the U.S. before the end of 60 days from date of termination. But if the worker is not ready to depart, what are the available options to allow them to continue to stay in the United States?
- Find a new U.S. employer. A terminated H1B visa holder may apply for a new job with a different employer. This new employer must be filed before the 60 days expire.
- Negotiate with the Current Employer. Being laid off comes as a surprise to many and usually it is a sudden news that is received by a terminated employee, i.e. no advance notice. But if a Notice of Termination is already received, depending on the company policy, one may negotiate for an extended termination date until the H1B employee finds a new employer in exchange for a lower severance pay. This is just an option as many H1B visa holders find that maintaining status is more a priority than the amount of severance pay.
- Change Status. If the deadline to leave the country is fast approaching and the negotiation for extended termination date is not granted, consider filing for a change of status for either a visitor visa (B2) or a student visa (F1). Or, the H1B visa may also be changed to an O1 visa which will also permit the individual to work. The standards for O1 are different from an H1B, thus requiring an advice/analysis from a legal counsel. This application for change of status must be filed within the 60 day grace period.
- Adjust Status. This situation is specific to those who have a U.S. citizen fiancé or are already in a relationship. They may want to consider marriage and have their spouses petition them. A simultaneous petition and adjustment of status may be filed.
- Consider forming a Start Up Entity. An investor visa (temporary or permanent) may be an option for a terminated H1B visa holder who has the capacity to invest in a new U.S. entity and meets the eligibility requirements set by pertinent regulations.
Realizing that thousands of talented foreign nationals are affected by these mass layoffs, there are venture capitalists and or other smaller firms, who may be sympathetic and willing to hire these H1B employees.
When all options have been exhausted and there is no such luck, or perhaps, there is not enough time to change status or find a new employer within the 60 days period, it may be best to consider leaving the United States in order to preserve one’s option of returning in the future without any negative consequence.
(Atty. Lourdes S. Tancinco is an immigration attorney and immigrant rights advocate based in the San Francisco Bay area and a partner at the Tancinco Law P.C.. She may be reached at email@example.com, www.tancinco.com, facebook/tancincolaw, or at 1-888-930-0808)