h1b visa: Laid off Twitter, Meta workers a talent source for US IT companies

IT services and staffing firms in the United States could be in for a ready reserve of potential employees following mass layoffs by technology companies such as Twitter and Meta Inc.

Many of those impacted by the layoffs are workers on an H-1B work permit.

They will not be eligible to legally stay and work in the United States after 60 days of the end of their employment contracts.

Staffing firm Quess Corp, which recently started its professional staffing business in the United States, said this was a good opportunity for companies to hire people who had been fired.

“We are mapping that … there are layoffs in many pockets, in startups and in mature environments. For someone who already has a visa and can migrate … this is a good opportunity,” said Guruprasad Srinivasan, chief executive of Quess Corp.

Most IT services providers have been increasing their hiring in the United States in a bid to be closer to clients, especially after two years of a remote working environment due to travel restrictions following the Covid-19 pandemic.

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“…employers in the US need H-1B workers, especially in the IT sector. However, such employers cannot advertise that they have jobs for, let’s say H-1B visa holders, as that would be a discriminatory recruitment initiative and could expose the employer to lawsuits from US workers and/or other legal action or regulatory sanctions,” said Poorvi Chothani, managing partner of immigration law firm LawQuest.

However, companies are likely to tap into their existing employee networks to informally reach out to such workers and recruit them.

Staffing firms, which place workers at IT firms for short-term projects, could also emerge as potential employers as many companies are turning to staffing firms to meet their demand for highly skilled tech talent.

Deepali Khadakban, CEO of US-based IT services firm Precision Technologies, said her firm would continue to hire for tech skills, including those impacted by the layoffs.

“One challenge for these employees could be getting used to market-standard salary packages given that some of the tech firms had hired talent at fairly premium packages to attract them,” Khadakban said.

Most IT companies have increased their dependence on sub-contractors, or short-term workers, in the United States to bridge the supply gap.

Several people have taken to posting on microblogging platform Twitter, offering to connect those impacted by the layoffs with startups that are hiring and willing to sponsor the work permits. But it may not be smooth sailing for everyone.

“Hiring of lateral talent is largely a zero-sum game where talent is exchanged within the same cohort of companies. With all Big Tech bellwethers currently in the doldrums due to layoffs and hiring freeze or slowdown, opportunities are not expected to come calling,” said Kamal Karanth, CEO of employee staffing firm Xpheno.

Because of record low hiring volume in recent months, employees hit by layoffs are set to encounter “an unwelcoming hiring climate”, he added.

H-1B employees typically operate on a slippery slope dependent on their H-1B employer, and the tech sector is particularly vulnerable, said Neil A Weinrib, founder of Neil A. Weinrib & Associates, an immigration law firm.

“A lot depends on how long the foreign national has been holding H-1B status in terms of their ability to port to a new sponsor, as H-1Bs are typically valid for up to 6 years unless a PERM/Labor Certification has been filed on behalf of the foreign national before the end of their 5th year,” he said.

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