A recent article by the New York Times highlighted the current plight of foreign employees on skilled worker visas. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people in the United States are now unemployed, and a substantial portion of these unemployed workers are here on temporary visas, which means they are now in a state of limbo.
Visas like the H-1B do not allow workers to be furloughed. Although companies ultimately want to retain their foreign employees, they have been forced by economic conditions to terminate them instead. Additionally, these workers are not eligible for federal aid under the CARES Act—including unemployment, which means they have been left without a source of income.
The worst consequence of this plight, however, is the fact that laid-off H-1B workers will need to leave the country if they can’t find a replacement position within 60 days. But the jobs that allow them to stay in the United States have strict requirements, such as salary, type of work, and qualifications.
Before the pandemic, many of the tens of thousands of foreign workers on visas such as H-1Bs were in the process of obtaining green cards through employer-sponsorship. That process can take years, however, and it has now been cut short, replaced with the prospect of deportation.
Although H-1B workers are, by nature, highly qualified for positions (many of which are in the tech industry, which require higher degrees and exceptional skills), most companies have suspended their hiring process in order to make it through the economic downturn.
In short, now may be the worst possible time to embark on a job search, especially because the Trump administration’s goal is to put American-born workers first in line for new jobs. For example, the President just signed an executive order banning immigration for 60 days to allegedly limit international job competition. The administration may soon extend this ban to nonimmigrant visas, as well.
Immigrant advocacy groups have pushed the Trump administration to extend the H-1B grace period because of the pandemic, but no such move has yet been made.
Let Us Help You Navigate These Challenges
If you or a loved one are here on a worker visa, you may not be sure of what the future holds. At the Law Offices of James A. Welcome, we are determined to provide dedicated guidance and representation for individuals and families in your situation. While present circumstances may seem bleak, you do have options—and we can help you determine which strategy will best accomplish your goals.