H-1B Foreign Workers Hit by Wave of Tech Company Layoffs

by | Jan 27, 2023 | Firm News

Google has become the latest big tech company to announce layoffs, a trend that has been building across the industry in recent months – adding yet another worry to those on employment-based visas.

Tech companies, many of whom rely on foreign talent from countries such as India and China, utilise H-1B visas to give workers authorisation to work in the US – in areas such as software engineering, biotechnology and data. Companies like Google are announcing dramatic cuts in their workforce, mainly due to over-hiring during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also because of the ongoing fears over the state of the worldwide economy.

Employees on non-immigrant H-1B visas, who have been laid off, are essentially given a 60-day grace period to find a new job or face the possibility of being deported. Within the 60 days, workers are encouraged to find a new employer (who will file a new H-1B petition), file an application to change their status, or leave the United States. Employers who don’t follow the correct procedures are also at risk – with the possibility of heavy penalties and fines.

The H-1B system has been criticised as outdated – other than the addition of the 60-day period in 2017, there has been no major update to the program since it was created in 1990. As the tech industry has boomed, the demand for H-1B visas now outstrips the yearly cap (85,000 as of FY2023) – leaving many in a precarious situation when their employment is unexpectedly terminated.

What are the options?

As noted above, laid off workers’ main priority will be finding a job – but the new role must meet the eligibility criteria for an H-1B visa and the employer must be willing the file the necessary paperwork. Alternatively, they may wish to apply to change to B-1/B-2 Visitor Status – a strategy which may allow them more time to find a new job. There may also be other options open to the applicant, depending on the industry they work in, their home country, and other factors.

Worried about how layoffs could affect your immigration status? We can help you understand your options. Check out our Employment-based Immigration services for more information.