6 Steps After to Take Immediately After an H1B Layoff

Posted by in Immigrants | Updated on August 12, 2023
At a Glance: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a high unemployment rate in the U.S., affecting H1B visa holders whose right to stay is tied to employment. Strict rules and timelines must be followed to maintain legal status, and if job loss occurs, there is a 60-day grace period to find another employer. Leaving the U.S. or staying without a valid visa has severe consequences. Options for H1B layoffs include meeting with the manager, utilizing the grace period, exploring visa status changes, considering H1B alternatives, inquiring about relocation costs, and taking proactive steps while the visa is valid.

The coronavirus has given the global economy a colossal hit, and most countries are struggling to keep their economies afloat. The global economy has seen a staggering 4% contraction while at least 33 million people have filed for unemployment in the U.S. alone. This global crisis spares no one, and the loss of jobs is affecting U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and visa holders alike. Unfortunately for a visa holder like yourself, your job loss has a more significant ripple effect than for most. It can end in you losing your American dream. 

H1B layoffs are causing turmoil all across the United States and leaving many in panic and fear. But you have options. What are the steps after an H1B layoff? Is there anything you can do to save what you’ve worked so hard to build? Let’s take a look.  

COVID-19 and Unemployment

The U.S. unemployment rate has jumped to a staggering 14.7% as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. As an H1B visa holder, your right to stay in the U.S. is tied to your employment in the U.S. Without it, you could lose your right to be here.

You also have to abide by strict rules and timelines to keep your legal status. To stay in the U.S., you need to work for the employer you told the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) you are working for. You need to work the hours you said you would be working, and you need to work at the office or location you said you would be working. If you lose your job during the pandemic, you have only 60 days to find another employer who can continue to sponsor your visa. There has been a petition to extend this grace period to 180 days, but at the time of writing this article, this petition hasn’t seen a successful outcome yet.

Not everyone facing an H1B layoff is also fortunate enough to get a new employer. Even if you do, the reality is it will require you to file a new visa application. In the current environment, even that is a logistical challenge. The USCIS has closed its physical offices and has suspended all services which require in-person interaction. Even premium processing has been suspended.

If you lose your job, your original employer will notify the USCIS of your employment being terminated. If you don’t find another employer in the 60-day timeframe, the USCIS will take steps to revoke your H1B visa. If you remain in the U.S. even though your visa has been revoked (and you don’t find any alternatives), you accrue unlawful presence in the U.S. This will have severe consequences and will cause barriers if you ever want to enter the U.S. again in the future. For example, if you stay in the U.S. outside of your visa for 12 months, you could be barred from entering the U.S. again for 10 years.

Unfortunately for many, the option of leaving the U.S. to return to their home country is also not on the table due to many countries’ restrictions, lockdowns, and border closures during COVID-19.

So, what are your options if you are facing an H1B layoff?

Top 6 Job Options for H1B Layoffs

If you lose your job due to the pandemic, 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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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.

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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.