h1b visa: Silicon Valley veteran offers tips for laid-off H-1B holders to remain in the United States

The tech industry’s years-long talent war has finally come back to haunt it, and thousands of immigrants are caught in the crossfire.

Mass layoffs that first began at Elon Musk’s Twitter quickly spread, with several tech giants announcing thousands of job cuts within a fortnight.

Facebook-parent Meta, e-commerce giant Amazon and payments startup Stripe have all announced significant job cuts as Big Tech goes through its layoff season.

While thousands have already been left jobless with more cuts expected, those on H-1B visas have been put on a 60-day deadline to be able to remain in the United States.
According to data released by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), there were 583,420 H-1B authorised work permit holders in the United States as of September 2019.

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About 5–15% of the 100k+ layoffs that have already happened in the United States are H-1B holders, says Debarghya Das, founding engineer at California-based work assistant Glean.

He shares ten tips for such workers to remain in the United States:

1. Interview immediately, and widely. Look at Startup jobs on AngelList. Don’t think too much about comp. Just get an offer.

2. Reach out to smaller firms in writing or your recruiter and explain your timeline.

3. Remember, your new company will have to file an LCA (7-10 days) and an H-1B. Make sure it’s premium processing so you hear back in 15 days. I-129 petition has to get in before day 60!

4. If you don’t find a job, worst case you’ll have to leave. Don’t panic. It’s not hard to get hired back in the US (you don’t have to do the lottery again). Your new H-1B will have to be “consular processing” which takes more time for visa interviews etc but there’s a way.

5. Consider applying for O-1 for “extraordinary ability”. A good lawyer can tell you if you’re eligible, and you might be. This isn’t tied to an employer. Premium processing is available.

6. Try to negotiate with your employer for less severance pay and more employment time. If you can stay employed until the end of the year, your odds are much higher. Holiday season is a bad time to recruit.

7. Try to become a dependent of your spouse to extend your timeline.

8. Consider going back to school on an F-1. There are cheap colleges that allow this.

9. Change to B1 visitor visa if your employer lets you and extend your time. You’ll need to do a H-1B change-of-status when you get a job.

10. If you’re running out of OPT and are on F-1 because you didn’t make the H-1B lottery, consider “Day 1 CPT”. There are risks.

Das suggests that workers with valid visitor visas or PRs can even go to Canada, during their job search, and return to the United States with an old valid H-1B stamp and a new approved I797.

“The immigration support that the companies love to advertise in PR are usually pathetic. Don’t rely on it,” he adds.

Great time to start your own startup

As layoffs sweep the global tech industry, many firms have stepped up to help immigrants who have lost their jobs.

VC funds like Unshackled Ventures, Day One Ventures, AI2 Incubator, Born Global Ventures and One Way Ventures have announced special programmes to fund seed stage startups with immigrants.

Meanwhile, companies in India are also inviting those being laid off in the US to return home. Harsh Jain, CEO and co-founder of Dream Sports, is among those offering jobs.

“With all the 2022 Tech layoffs (52,000+!) in the US, please spread the word to remind Indians to come back home (specially those with visa issues) to help Indian Tech realise our hyper-growth potential in the next decade!,” Jain tweeted.

ET Online

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