Hyderabad: Thousands of people from Andhra and Telangana holding H-1B visas in the USA are facing massive layoffs in the next few months.
Many companies in the US have started downsizing, amid the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
H1-B visa holders, who have been laid off, have 60 days to find a new job. Those who fail to do so are possibly looking at deportation.
Pranitha (name changed), a Hyderabad native and an H-1B Visa holder residing in Mountain View, California, said she had lost her job in a major MNC a week ago.
She said, “I got an email telling me the organisation was forced to downsize and they were losing clients. I was let go by the end of that day.”
She is currently holed up in her apartment, preparing for interviews.
However, there aren’t many, given the current situation. “I am seriously coming to terms with the fact that I might have to return home in June,” she said, adding she personally knew several people who were in a similar situation.
Even if you are fortunate enough to find another job in the next few weeks, it won't be an easy process to ensure your stay in the US. When an H-1B visa holder changes jobs, their new employer has to file a form to update the visa holder’s employment details with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Normally, most companies would file a request for “expedited processing”, which would allow this process to be over within 15 days. However, in view of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, USCIS had discontinued this service from March 20, “until further notice”.
The US Department of Homeland Services (DHS), however, announced on Tuesday that it would allow people whose Visas were expiring to apply for extension along with “valid reasons”.
People with the same employer, whose visas were up for renewal, will be automatically extended by 240 days.
Those without employment would have to apply for a ‘Change of Status’ (COS) or ‘Extension of Stay’ (EOS) to continue staying in the US, but on a different visa (eg., H-1B to a visitor visa).
Chinna (name changed), a recently-unemployed H1B visa holder from Hyderabad, living in Minnesota, said, “It isn’t clear if this extension is a way for us to leave the USA legally (without deportation) or to give us time to look for jobs. I have to speak to my immigration consultancy regarding this. A lot of my friends are confused right now about this development,” he said.
Chinna said he wasn’t sure if the DHS’s announcement has any effect on the 60-day deadline on H-1B visas.
“If I get a job at another place, my employer could apply for a change of status, even if it takes a long time. If I don’t get a job, I don’t know whether I have to get a visitor visa or not so I can leave legally when airports open up or if I can, in fact, stay on and look for another job,” he said.
It is estimated that there are more than 65,000 H-1B visa holders from India in the USA currently.
There is currently a petition on the White House’s official website, asking the United States Federal government to increase the 60-day period to 180 days. It went live on March 19.
It has since gotten over 52,000 signatures. However, in order to get an official update on the petition from the White House, it has to get at least 100,000 signatures by April 18....