What to do if you got laid off on a US H1B Visa

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Before we talk about what to do in the event that you lost your job on an H1B Visa, let’s throw some light on what this visa is about.

What is an H1B Visa?

An H1B visa is a work visa granted to a nonimmigrant by the United States. It allows a US company/employer to hire foreign-skilled individuals for specialised jobs that require a bachelor’s or higher degree.

Who’s eligible for this visa?

Generally, you are eligible for an H1B visa if:

  • A US company requires your skill or expertise in their organisation
  • You have a job offer from a US company requesting for you as a specialised worker
  • There is proof that no individual within the US can fill that specialised role

What to do if you are laid off from your job while on an H1B visa

It’s important to know your visa status and what grace period you have if you get laid off from work under an H1b visa. According to the legal encyclopaedia, If U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) finds that you are “unlawfully present,” you could face harsh legal consequences, particularly after six months go by. Though the H1B visa is usually valid for up to 3 years, one could lose their job before the end of the 3 year timeline.

Now here’s what to do if you are laid off. There are a few options available.

Apply for another job: According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, you have the grace to stay in the US for up to 60 calendar days or until the expiration of your initial visa. It doesn’t matter if your employment was terminated voluntarily or involuntarily, this grace still applies. However, you are allowed to actively apply for another job within this period of time if your H1B visa is still valid and has not expired.

It is important to understand that the petition filed with USCIS by your previous employer requesting that you come work in the US allows you to work for that employer under the working conditions stated in Form I-129. However, if you’re able to secure employment after your previous job was terminated, your new employer is allowed to file a new petition by filling out a new Form I-129 with USCIS requesting an extension of your stay. Note: All these have to be done within 60 calendar days. 

If you are unable to get a job or if your new employer is unable to file a petition for an extension of your stay within the 60-day grace period, you’ll be required to depart the United States. Your new employer’s petition can allow you some time to seek an extension through your new employer(when the company files a new H1b visa)  or have time to apply for a change of visa status. 

Change your visa status: You could change your visa status to become the dependent of a spouse i.e L-2, H-4 visas, or apply for a student visa that allows you to work. Only be sure to do this within your 60-day grace.

In conclusion, it is important to ensure that you are staying in the US lawfully regardless of the circumstances around the termination of your employment.

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