What happens when an H1B employee loses their job?

Just as with any type of employment, H1B visa holders working in the US can find themselves out of a job for a variety of reasons. This may be due to company downsizing, eliminating positions or being laid off for performance issues.

For non-immigrant H1B workers out of a job, the first question is whether they can legally remain in the US, since their immigration status is tied to their employment. You may elect to return to the home country and start over with the H1B visa process, and if so, the employer is obligated to give you return transportation if they terminated your employment.

No ‘Grace Period’ for Unemployment or Time Gap Before Starting a New Job

There are several options if you find yourself in this situation, but the first thing you need to understand is that the first day that you are without a job, and not getting paid, means you are “unlawfully present” in the US.

You do have some time to seek a remedy, but don’t let your status slide for too long or you could compromise future visas and immigration permissions. Technically there is no grace period, but if you can find a solution within a week or two you may be given some leeway.

Option 1: Find a New Job

If you received adequate notice from your original employer, you can look for another job assuming that your skills match another employer’s needs. Of course, the new employer will need to petition for an H1B visa transfer, and have it approved by USCIS.

If you did not get much notice and it takes longer than 30 days to find a job and have the petition filed, you may be better off leaving the US and then re-entering on the new H1B visa from the new employer. Otherwise it will appear that you were staying in the US illegally without a clear plan to get a job and a new visa.

Option 2: Go Back to School

If you are inclined, you can pursue an additional or higher degree at a college or university.  If accepted you can remain in the US on F-1 student visa. F-1 status can always be used as a means to obtain another H1B visa, which would fall within the additional 20,000 visas issued if you are in a Master’s degree program or higher. So, if you want to improve your educational credentials this is a good option for eventually obtaining another H1B.

Option 3: Apply for a Tourist Visa

You can also apply for a tourist visa to maintain lawful status while you conduct your job search. This can also take time for approval, so if this is the option you choose be sure to apply in advance of your termination date. Remember, no job , no status.

Option 4: Return to the Home Country and Look for a New Job

If your return transportation is being paid by your employer, you may want to simply return home and conduct a job search from there. While you give up the advantage of being ‘on the ground’ in the US, you wont have any immigration issues to deal with or the stress of trying to have new petition filed quickly.

If you are currently working under an H1B visa and think that you may lose your job, please contact us. We can help you sort out your options to maintain lawful status and look for a new position in the US

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  • May 29th, 2016
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