On March 16, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of Homeland Security were advised to consider extending the grace period for laid-off H1B workers to 180 days (6 months), according to Ajay Jain Bhutoria, a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.
The recommendation is part of an effort to help relieve the strain placed on tens of thousands of recently unemployed tech workers who have been impacted by mass layoffs in the US, including thousands of H1B visa holders in skilled positions. In recent weeks, tech giants such as Facebook parent company Meta and Microsoft have each laid off over 10,000 workers, and Twitter has sacked some 50% of its workforce since last October. All told, more than 100,000 tech workers have lost their jobs, and additional cuts are forecast to continue by most experts.
As many of these skilled tech workers are in the US on H1B visas, the woes affecting the tech industry have hit them the hardest. Currently, H1B workers only have a 60-day grace period after being laid off to find a new job or change their visa status, or they risk accruing unlawful presence, potentially affecting their ability to reenter or be employed in the US in the future.
If the suggestion is ultimately implemented by USCIS, the extended grace period granted for laid-off H1B workers could be very valuable, as it would give them time to seek alternate employment and remain in the US, rather than being forced to leave the country with little notice.
However, H1B workers affected by these layoffs should be realistic about their expectations. Most experts agree that any change to the H1B grace period will take several months to be approved and implemented. Therefore, it likely won’t have any positive affect on existing H1B workers who have already become unemployed.
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