H-1B Layoff — What to Do Explained

Updated on April 12, 2024

In today’s rapidly evolving job market, H-1B visa holders often face the challenge of navigating layoffs and the subsequent legal implications. Understanding the intricacies of termination and the available options post-layoff is essential to maintain legal status and plan for the future. This article delves into the legal nuances of H-1B termination, the grace period provided, and the steps individuals must take to explore alternative visa options or seek new employment opportunities.

30 Second Recap:

When faced with an H-1B layoff, understanding the legal implications is crucial. Termination directly impacts your status, potentially leading to unlawful presence. However, a 60-day grace period is provided to explore options. You can seek new employment, apply for a change of status, or plan for departure. Exploring alternative visa options or green card considerations is vital for long-term residency goals. Additionally, prioritizing job search strategies that sponsor H-1B visas can expedite finding new opportunities post-layoff.

Understanding H-1B Termination

When you face an H-1B layoff, it’s crucial to understand the legal nuances and the critical steps you must take. Navigating this process effectively can help you avoid unlawful presence and potential deportation.

Your H-1B status is directly tied to your employment, and layoffs can have immediate legal implications. Upon termination of your employment, you are typically considered out of status, which could lead to unlawful presence if not addressed swiftly. It’s essential that your employer informs the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of your termination. Failing to maintain lawful status could lead to consequences, including deportation.

Need help with your H-1B visa?

The H-1B visa process is complex, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re struggling to understand all of the moving parts, let Stilt help. Our team of H-1B visa experts can help you make sense of all the eligibility requirements, documents, and the application process.

Grace Period and Next Steps

You’re allowed a discretionary 60-day grace period upon being laid off, where you are still considered to have maintained status. Use this time effectively:

  • Search for a new H-1B sponsor: This can help you remain in the United States legally.
  • Apply for a change of status: If you wish to change to another nonimmigrant status, take steps within the grace period.
  • Plan for potential departure: If no other options are viable, prepare to depart the U.S. to avoid the consequences of unlawful presence.

You must act within the grace period to maintain your legal options and prevent being out of status.

Laid Off on H-1B: Advice from Visa Holders

Being laid off from your job is stressful enough, but for H-1B visa holders, the situation adds extra urgency and complication. As one commenter describes, “I was recently laid off on H-1B and have been applying everywhere with no calls and only rejection emails. I wanted to know what my options are given the 60 day grace period is running out.”

The 60-day grace period to find new H-1B sponsorship is understandably daunting in a tough job market. However, there are some potential routes to extend your time in the U.S. lawfully:

File for Change of Status

Multiple commenters recommend filing an I-539 to change status to B-1/B-2 visitor visa or H-4 dependent visa if eligible. As one explains, “This effectively stops the grace period and you get an additional 6 months to search after it gets approved.” Just be sure to time it before your 60 days runs out.

Once a new H-1B opportunity arises, your employer can file for a transfer petition which would take precedence over the pending change of status application.

Negotiate with Former Employer

ne unconventional approach – “Negotiate with your employer to put you on PTO until that severance package is over. They will then end your H-1B on the date of separation and the grace period kicks in.” This can buy several extra months, as long as your company cooperates.

While these tactics can provide more runway, the overwhelming advice is – act quickly and leave no stone unturned in the job search. As UneBiteplusgrande bluntly stated, “Unless you have 6+ years of experience, it’s a horrible market…prepare to head back to your country unless you have a chance to get a green card.”

That pragmatic view is countered by others suggesting diligence: “Start mass applying and networking as much as possible.” Leveraging tools like ApplyAtScale.com for efficient job applications is recommended.

The path forward isn’t easy, but possible with the right action plan and mindset. As one commenter summarizes – consult an immigration lawyer, weigh your financial runway, and make contingency plans, but “try as much as you can” before that 60 day period expires.

Navigating Post-Layoff Options

After an H-1B layoff, you have a limited window to explore alternative visa options or seek new employment to maintain your legal status. It’s imperative to act prudently to navigate your future in the United States.

Alternative Visa and Status Options

If you’re facing an H-1B layoff, you should immediately consider other visa or status options. An H-4 visa may be a viable option if your spouse holds a valid H-1B status. Applying for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) allows you to work legally in the U.S. while exploring further opportunities. It’s also possible to adjust your status to a B-1/B-2 tourist visa, providing a temporary stay. Seek advice from an immigration attorney to understand the full range of options available to you.

Green Card Considerations

For long-term residency goals, a green card is often sought by nonimmigrant workers, especially those in the tech industry. If your employer has initiated a green card process for you, your layoff could affect that process depending on your application stage. Adjusting your status through portability may be an option, depending on whether you have an approved I-140 and are facing a layoff after filing an Adjustment of Status (AOS) application.

Job Search Strategies for H-1B Workers

Job search becomes crucial post-layoff. Prioritize job opportunities that would sponsor an H-1B visa. Network within your industry and consider flexibilities such as location or role to increase your chances. Prepare to explain your situation to potential employers, as they will need to file a new employer petition on your behalf. Make your job search a full-time commitment to expedite finding a new position that can sponsor your visa. This week-by-week guide may assist in planning your search effectively.

Need help with your H-1B visa?

The H-1B visa process is complex, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re struggling to understand all of the moving parts, let Stilt help. Our team of H-1B visa experts can help you make sense of all the eligibility requirements, documents, and the application process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Navigating the implications of a layoff on your H-1B status can be complex and requires understanding specific regulations and available options.

What happens to my H-1B status if I am laid off?

If you are laid off while on H-1B status, you are no longer in a lawful nonimmigrant status. Without your H-1B job, you must find new employment, change your visa status, or leave the United States.

Is there a grace period for H-1B workers after a layoff, and what is its duration?

There is a 60-day grace period, or until the end of your I-94 arrival/departure record, whichever period is shorter.

How does an approved I-140 petition affect my H-1B status after a layoff?

An approved I-140 petition allows you to remain in the U.S. and seek H-1B extensions beyond the standard 6-year limitation, but it does not directly protect your status after a layoff.

Can H-1B employees stay in the US without employment, and for how long?

H-1B employees can stay in the U.S. during the 60-day grace period. They must find new employment, change status, or leave the U.S. before the grace period expires.

What are the consequences of quitting a job while on H-1B status?

Quitting your job on H-1B status leads to loss of lawful status. You will have the same 60-day grace period to find new sponsorship, change your status, or depart the U.S.

Are there any options to extend the H-1B grace period following a job loss?

The grace period after a job loss is typically not extendable, but you may change your status or depart and re-enter the U.S. with a new H-1B employer’s sponsorship.

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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.

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