Many foreign workers, especially from Asia, are likely to have to leave the US if they cannot find new jobs and sponsors to maintain their H-1B visas, according to Nikkei Asia.
giant Zhou was a data science specialist at Meta Platforms before becoming one of more than 11,000 employees laid off by the US tech early last month. A master’s degree from America’s top engineering school and more than five years of experience didn’t help the 30-year-old find a new job, even though he did more than a dozen interviews in the two weeks after being fired. job.
Time is running out for Zhou, a Chinese citizen living in the San Francisco Bay Area, as his H-1B work visa only has one year left, while his application for permanent residence (green card) has yet to be approved. acceptance. It is worth mentioning that Zhou’s ability to maintain their visa status depends on whether an employer is willing to sponsor him. After his work with Meta officially ends at the end of January 2023, Zhou will have 60 days to find new work and sponsors.
“Not all companies are willing to sponsor you to get a green card on day one. If that’s the case, I still might not be able to submit the H-1B extension in time to continue working in the US,” Zhou told Nikkei. Without a valid visa, Zhou is likely to be forced to leave the country he has lived in for the past eight years.
The above story is just one of the thousands of similar cases happening to foreign nationals working in the US, as technology companies continuously cut their workforce. The H-1B is a temporary work visa primarily used by tech firms to hire skilled immigrants. Holders of this visa have 60 days to find a new employer if they lose their job. But in reality, they have to act faster because they haven’t calculated the time it takes to process the H-1B visa transfer.
According to new data from USCIS, Meta, Twitter, and Amazon are the tech companies with the most H-1B workers and among the biggest layoffs. Twitter has laid off 3,700 employees, while Amazon plans to shed about 10,000.
“We are providing dedicated support channels for any employees who are applying for a visa and may be impacted by the cuts,” an Amazon spokesperson said.
However, in the face of an impending recession and mass layoffs across the tech industry, finding new work will be challenging for even experienced and qualified workers. higher education. According to layoffs.fyi , a website that tracks job cuts in the tech sector, 930 tech companies laid off 146,407 workers in 2022, more than 51,000 in November alone.
“Asian people will be more affected by the wave of tech layoffs, especially India and China. Finding new work for those in need of funding will be more difficult than for US citizens or permanent residents. Not every company wants to do that because of the additional costs,” said Harley Lippman, CEO of technology staffing company Genesis10.
According to Rebecca Bernhard, immigration and employment attorney at international law firm Dorsey & Whitney, the average cost of an H-1B petition is more than $5,000 plus other legal fees, depending on the service. legal services that the company hires.
The complexity of the US immigration system
According to Tahmina Watson, author of Startup Visa, 60 days to find a new sponsor is “a very short period of time” for most people; “This is creating a lot of anxiety and fear about what they are going to do. It’s not just a story about one person getting fired, it’s about their family, kids going to school, spouse working.”
The situation is particularly dire for laid-off workers who have been in the US for several years and have pending green card applications. They must redo the entire application process from scratch when, and if, they find a new employer to sponsor, depending on how much time is left in their visa status.
immigration attorney According to Rohit Biswas, business at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, given the complexity of the US immigration system, even H-1B visa holders who have not been laid off could be affected. If a company lays off employees, any green card applications it sponsors will be put on hold until the company shows that it has a legitimate staffing need and cannot find enough U.S. citizens. to fill the void.
Opportunity in chaos
Yeon Me Kim, a Grossman Young & Hammond lawyer, said that smaller companies can hire highly skilled staff from the likes of Meta and Amazon. “Dismissed H-1B workers face very limited time to find new employers to sponsor them. I think if they have an offer, they’ll take it, even if it’s on a short-term basis.”
Meanwhile, Ms. Watson suggests others could even start workshops to help laid-off workers build their own startups. “Many people who were laid off could serve Big Tech from the outside if they had their own company. That’s what happened during the 2008-2009 recession.” However, she added that the US needs to move forward with long-delayed plans to issue visas to foreign nationals to set up their own companies.
The US is at risk of “brain drain”
“We are having problems attracting talent. Meanwhile, countries like Canada are actively recruiting to increase their immigration base. I think talented immigrants are finding opportunities in all sorts of options around the world, and unfortunately, the US is no longer necessarily their top destination,” said Steve Loehr, Professor of Law immigration at Cornell University, talking about the personnel situation in the US.
“I think layoffs will continue for a while, but companies will soon realize the problem when they are not completing the workload. I predict that within a year, there will be a shortage of workers and a hiring boom,” said Genesis10 CEO Harley Lippman.