H1B visa holders seek 180 instead of 60-day stay in US after job loss amidst layoffs
Washington, Mar 31: Foreign IT professionals, a majority of them Indians with H-1B visas in the US, have urged the Trump administration to extend their permissible stay from 60 to 180 days after job loss, amidst the massive layoffs in America due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The H-1B visa, most sought after among the Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows the US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China. The current federal rules require an H-1B visa holder to leave the US along with their family within 60 days of losing their job.
Economic experts fear massive layoffs in various sectors of the American economy due to the current economic distress that is only going to deteriorate in the coming months.
A record 3.3 million Americans have filed initial jobless claims for the week ending March 21. Even as the peak of coronavirus in the US is some two weeks away, millions of people in the country have lost their jobs. According to an estimate, some 47 million people could be rendered unemployed. Those on H-1B visas are neither eligible for unemployment benefits nor entitled to the social security benefits, even though there is deductions from their salary for this purpose. Initial reports suggest that a large number of H-1B employees are being laid off. In some cases, companies have already informed their H-1B employees that they are on top of the list of being fired.
As such, the H-1B visa holders have started a petition campaign on the White House website to extend the timeline for their stay in the US after their job loss. "We request the government to temporarily extend the 60-day grace period to 180 days and protect the H-1B workers under these difficult times," says the petition which has so far attracted more than 20,000 signatures. It requires a minimum of 100,000 petitions to get a response from the White House.
The COVID-19 situation is getting worse with massive lay-offs expected. The economic conditions may have a significant impact on H-1B workers, the petition says. "Under regulations, H-1B workers have a 60-day grace period of unemployment time during each authorised validity period to stay in the US legally. They must find new work within 60 days otherwise they have to leave the country. "Most H-1B workers are from India and cannot travel home with children who are US citizens as many nations announced an entry ban, including India. H-1B workers cater to the economy at large, mainly supporting the IT Industry with high tax contributions," the petition says.
A total of 782,365 COVID-19 cases have been reported across more than 175 countries and territories with 37,582 deaths reported so far. America has the highest number of cases with a total of 161,807 infections, according to Johns Hopkins University data.