H-1B Layoffs Explained and 6 Steps to Take

Updated on January 5, 2024

At a Glance

  • H-1B visa holders can engage in stock trading in the U.S. with a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
  • USCIS does not regulate stock trading, but H-1B visa holders should avoid day trading regularly to comply with visa status.
  • Tax liabilities apply to income earned from stock trading, and professional help is recommended for filing taxes.
  • It is advisable for H-1B visa holders to treat stock trading as a hobby or part-time work while working full time for their sponsoring company.

Losing your job can be a challenging experience, especially when you are on an H1B visa. In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide on what to do next and how to navigate through this difficult time. From understanding grace periods to exploring alternative visa options, we will walk you through the key steps you need to take to protect your legal status and secure your future in the United States. So, let’s dive in and explore the essential actions you should consider after an H1B layoff.

Understanding the Grace Periods

The first thing you need to understand when you are laid-off on an H-1B is grace periods. There are two key grace periods:

60-Day Grace Period

After termination, H1B workers have a 60-day grace period to secure new employment, change their status, or leave the U.S. This period is critical for maintaining legal status and planning the next steps.

10-Day Grace Period

Contrary to some beliefs, the 10-day grace period applies only in specific scenarios, such as preparing for departure or extending, changing, or maintaining lawful immigration status.

Employer Responsibilities and H1B Status

When you’re laid-off, your employer must fulfill certain responsibilities within the law. These responsibilities include:

Notification Requirement

Employers must notify USCIS immediately upon an H1B worker’s termination. Failure to do so can result in ongoing wage obligations.

Visa Status and Employment Changes

H1B status is tied to the employer. Significant changes, like termination, necessitate a new H1B Visa application. It’s crucial to renew the H1B Visa to avoid falling out of status.

Maintaining Legal Status Post-Layoff

After you’re laid-off, it’s up to you to find opportunities to remain in the U.S. if that is your goal. Your options include:

If laid off, consider filing for a change of status to B-1/B-2 or finding a new employer and filing a change of employer petition. Timely actions are essential to avoid falling into “unlawful presence,” which can severely impact future U.S. entries.

Employment Options

Laid-off H1B workers should actively seek new employment and have the new employer submit an H1B employer change application. Holding an EAD allows immediate work for a new employer.

Unemployment Benefits and New Employment

During your unemployment period, you will be entitled to certain benefits, including:

Unemployment Benefits

Generally, H1B workers are ineligible for unemployment benefits due to their visa status and employment conditions.

Job Change and Green Card Applications

If an adjustment of status application has been pending for over 180 days, changing jobs might not jeopardize a green card application, provided the new job is similar.

If you are laid off, it is your responsibility to follow the law, meaning:

Overstaying can result in a ban from re-entering the U.S. for up to ten years.

Financial Responsibilities

Employers have specific responsibilities regarding return transportation costs, though these are subject to certain limitations. H1B workers can also explore changing to another temporary visa category.

6 Key Steps to Take After an H-1B Layoff

If you lose your job, don’t just sit back. You need to be proactive in making sure you don’t have to leave the U.S. and your American dream behind.

Here are some of the steps after an H1B layoff you have at your disposal.

1. Ask to Meet with Your Manager

Under normal circumstances, your manager or your HR department will give you a warning if you are facing trouble in your job. This gives you advance notice that your employment could terminate. In the current pandemic, you don’t need the notice to know your job might be at risk.

So, keeping that in mind, be proactive and engage with your manager before it’s too late. Perhaps you could transfer to another department or take a leave of absence (without actually losing your job) while you look for another H1B employer and work on your I-129 petition.

2. Be Aware of the 60-Day Grace Period

The 60-day grace period is the time the USCIS gives you to find an alternative employer if you lose your job. In these 60 days, you need to find a new job and convince the new employer to sponsor your H1B visa.

As you look for a new employer, make sure you keep all the evidence of your attempts. You will need to present this evidence to the USCIS. They expect to see anything from pay stubs from your current job to recruitment documentation, interview requests, offer letters, and the likes to show you actively searched for a new job.

3. Look into Options for Changing Your Status

You could also consider changing your visa status. Just because you can’t be in the U.S. on an H1B visa doesn’t mean you can’t be here on another visa. Perhaps you could move to an H4 visa if you have a spouse who also holds an H1B visa. Or you could consider studying and getting an F1 visa. Just remember an F1 visa has to coincide with college admissions or acceptance into an accredited university. This could be difficult in the current circumstances, but some universities and schools continue to operate despite coronavirus. The point is, you have options, so do your homework on all the possible alternative visas available.

4. Look into H1B Alternatives

There are also other alternatives to the H1B visa. If your employer is an international organization, perhaps they could make use of the L1A inter-company visa transfer. Some strict criteria apply to an L1A (such as being at a managerial level), but it is worth investigating!

5. Ask About Relocations Costs

If nothing else works and your current H1B visa will expire sooner than the 60-day grace period (leaving you with no other options), you can ask whether your employer has planned or made arrangements to fund your relocation costs. No doubt, it will be a costly exercise to move your life back to your home country. It will lessen some of the burdens if your employer is willing to share some of the cost.

6. Take All Steps While Visa Status is Still Valid

Irrespective of your current situation and the options you have to explore, you need to do as much as you can while your visa is still valid. Time isn’t on your side, and you don’t want to waste the little time you do have. Apply for as many jobs as possible. See if you can upskill yourself to make you eligible for more jobs. Look at what study programs are available to you and do anything else that can move you forward. Once your time has run out, it will be too late.

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Final Thoughts

If you are facing an H1B layoff and you want to secure your future in the U.S., consider the steps after an H1B layoff we set out above. Giving up is not an option after everything you’ve done to build the life you have. Your American dream can survive this pandemic.If you are facing an H1B layoff and you want to s

H-1B Layoff FAQ

What happens if I get laid off while on an H1B visa?

If you’re laid off, you have a 60-day grace period to find a new employer, change your status, or leave the U.S. Your legal status is tied to your employment, so it’s crucial to act within this period.

Do I have to leave the U.S. immediately after being laid off?

Not immediately. You have a 60-day grace period to make necessary arrangements, including finding new employment or changing your visa status.

Can I change my employer after getting laid off?

Yes, you can. You need to find a new employer who will file a new H1B petition on your behalf within the 60-day grace period.

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits after an H1B layoff?

Generally, H1B workers are not eligible for unemployment benefits due to specific state requirements and visa conditions.

What happens if I don’t find a job within the 60-day grace period?

If you don’t find a job or change your status within the 60-day period, you may need to leave the U.S. to avoid unlawful presence, which can impact future U.S. entries.

Can I stay in the U.S. if I am applying for a green card?

If your adjustment of status application has been pending for over 180 days, you may change jobs without affecting your green card application, as long as the new job is in a similar occupation.

What should I do if my H1B visa is about to expire?

If your visa is about to expire, apply for a renewal or change of status, or plan to leave the U.S. within the 10-day grace period after your visa expires.

Do I accrue “unlawful presence” immediately after being laid off?

No, you do not accrue unlawful presence immediately. The grace period allows you to stay without accruing unlawful presence until it ends or your I-94 expires, whichever is earlier.

Is my employer responsible for my return transportation if I’m laid off?

Yes, your employer is required to pay reasonable costs of transportation to your last place of foreign residence. However, this does not extend to family members.

Can I switch to a different visa type after a layoff?

Yes, you may apply to change your status to another visa category, like a student (F-1) or tourist (B-2) visa, before your current H1B status expires.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.