Twitter layoffs: Mass Twitter layoffs put H-1B visa holders in an immigration limbo

Elon Musk’s massive firing spree across Twitter has put some employees on a 60-day deadline, and their immigration status under threat.

Twitter employees working on American work visas, like the H-1B and L-1, are now racing against time to find a new job. Most of these workers have 60 days to either find another company to sponsor them or leave the United States.

There are about 625 to 670 Twitter employees in H-1B status, or about 8% of the company’s 7,500 employees, a Forbes report said, citing a National Foundation for American Policy analysis of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data.

Out of the 50% workforce cut announced, it is unclear how many were foreign workers.

Foreign workers in the United States typically work under H-1B, L-1 or O-1 visas, and each come with a different set of rules.

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“While H-1B visa holders have a 60-day grace period, it’s much more difficult for workers on L-1 and O-1 visas. They may have to leave soon after their employment is terminated, except in rare circumstances,” says Poorvi Chothani, Managing Partner at LawQuest.

For those on H-1B visas

“When an H-1B employee is laid off, they usually have 60 days grace period to file an H-1B through another employer. The exact grace period is calculated by looking at the time remaining on their approved status. If the time remaining is less than 60 days, they get the lesser time,” according to Rajiv Khanna, Managing Attorney, Immigration.com.

One advantage H-1B workers who may have lost their jobs have is that they have already been counted against the annual H-1B quota, so it is relatively easier for them to find another sponsor.

However, the petition by a new employer needs to be submitted before the 60th day, says Chothani.

H-1B workers who have been counted in the H-1B cap lottery within the last 6 years do not have to wait for the next lottery. If they cannot find another sponsor in the 60-day grace period, and have to leave the country, they can continue looking for US jobs from their home country. Once an individual gets a new job, the new employer can immediately apply for a petition that will allow them to move back to the US once it is approved and they have a visa stamp.

Chothani explains, “If an H-1B worker has not been counted in the visa cap in the past 6 years, and finds a new job only after returning to their home country, they will have to re-enter the lottery pool.”

They can return to the US and work for the remainder of their H-1B tenure.

What happens to L-1 visa holders?

Employees who hold other kinds of immigration status, like an L-1 intracompany transfer visa, often have a more difficult time addressing their immigration situation.

Most employees working on L-1 intra company transfer visas will need to leave the country as soon as their job has been terminated.

“L-1 workers are intra-company transfers their employment is linked to their prior qualifying employment outside the US with the US employer’s foreign affiliated company. Hence, once they are terminated the L-1 worker must leave the country as this employment cannot be transferred to a new employer,” says Chothani.


If you can’t find a job in 60 days


Workers who are not able to find a new employer and do not want to depart the US at the end of the 60-day grace period may be able to switch to another temporary status and remain in the country.

For example, if they may change to B-2 status and remain as a tourist or switch to F-1 status and go back to school.

“Sometimes, we advise filing for a tourist status (B-1/B-2), but that is not guaranteed. However, while the change of status is pending (several months), one can stay in the USA and keep looking for jobs,” said Khanna.

The Green Card queue

For people from backlogged countries like India where the wait in the backlog is exceptionally long, losing a job may jeopardise the whole Green Card application, forcing them back to the end of the line.

Unless the employee is at the second stage of the green card process — the I-140 immigrant petition — and that petition has been approved for at least six months, they retain their priority date, which is their place in line for the green card backlog, even if they lose their job.

However, they may have other avenues to remain in the country.

ET Online

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