Tech layoffs: US work visa regulations Indian professionals must keep in mind amid uncertainty

The US work visa is the most sought after among techies and other skilled or unskilled workers, but they are left on borrowed time to find new jobs after being laid off.

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Wednesday, November 23, 2022, 07:47 PM IST
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US Work Visa (Representative Image) |

Indian engineers and coders working hard with aspirations of creating innovative solutions at Google or Amazon are concerned about tens of thousands being fired in one go, to cut costs as soon as ad revenues fall. More than 300 immigrants have been affected by layoffs at Meta and Twitter alone, along with more at Cisco, Salesforce, Lyft, Amazon and Google. The situation of professionals on work visa scrambling for new jobs may spark fear among younger engineers, and knowing about the rules beforehand can lead to informed decisions.

Stories of South Asian immigrants trying hard to avoid being ousted from the US after being laid off have been shared on LinkedIn, while one Meta employee got fired two days after landing in Canada to join the firm. Those hit by job cuts might inevitably have to travel back to India since the new employer, if they find one, will not have enough time to file another H1B application which takes four weeks. These are the intricacies that make all the difference when a sudden jolt like the mass layoff threatens professional prospects.

Here are visas to be secured for working in the US, and the provisions every professional with the American dream needs to focus on.

H1B visa:

This is the most commonly known visa for Indians and other immigrants travelling to the US for work, and is allotted for IT professionals, engineers and architects among others in speciality occupations. The employer also needs to show that there are less US-based applicants for the role to justify the visa for a new hiree. Having a job in the US is a precondition to apply for H1B visas, since these require employers to file forms for the applicant.

People on H1B visas can also start a business of their own, but need to be prepared for more scrutiny by authorities. The visa is usually valid for three years, but workers have the option to extend it to six years.

H1B visa processing had been blocked by Former President Trump’s executive order in 2020, but it is being issued again now. The H4 visa can be used by H1B holders to take their spouse and children to the US. If a person is fired while working on this visa, they must find a new job in a grace period of 60 days.

H3 visa:

These are given to professionals who are travelling to US for training in agriculture, commerce, tech and other sectors, and is valid for two years. Those seeking training as part of special educational programs, can stay for a maximum period of 18 months. Those on H3 visa arent allowed to seek regular employment in the US, and also have to look for another job in a grace period of 60 days, if they are laid off.

This visa also comes with a cap of 50 per year, and is available for those who are invited for special training programs by organisations in the US.

F1 OPT visas:

For those willing to complete studies in the US before seeking work there, can secure F1 visas as full time students of accredited universities after getting an admission. They get to stay in the US for 60 days after their course ends, but with the Optional Practical Training (OPT) alternative, they can seek authorisation of their employment. The validity for this authorisation is one year, but STEM students get a two-year extension.

L1 visas:

If a top level executive of a larger firm or a conglomerate is transferred to the headquarter or another branch in the US, the L1 visa facilitates this move. Indians can stay in the US for five years on this visa, if they are working for a company which is the parent firm or part of the same organisation. People on L1 visa are also granted a 60 day grace period to find alternative employment if their job is terminated.

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