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US Tech Layoffs Could Force Extension Of H1B Visa Grace Period

A presidential advisory sub-committee has advised the US government to extend the grace period for skilled foreign workers with H1B Visas amid layoffs sweeping the technology sector

Thu Mar 16 2023

The H1-B Visa grace period, which currently grants highly skilled foreign workers in the US 60 days to find a new sponsor or leave the country after losing their jobs, could be extended due to layoffs sweeping the technology industry. 

A presidential advisory sub-committee recently made a recommendation to the federal government that it extend the grace period to 180 days to accommodate those affected by job cuts. 

The visa is a common route for international business school graduates to enter the US job market via a sponsoring company. Tech firms are regularly among the largest H1-B visa sponsors.

But the tech industry has been hit by waves of headcount reductions in 2023, with the likes of Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft laying off thousands of staff. This week, Meta announced 10,000 staff would lose their jobs in a second round of job cuts. 

The current extension period requires laid off workers to find a new job, file paperwork to transfer their sponsorship status, and be processed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)—all within 60 days. 

While the federal government is yet to confirm the extension, tech executive Ajay Bhutoria, who sits on the US President's Advisory Commission for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities, said the recommendation would likely be accepted. 

Speaking with Business Today, he said: “The current 60-day grace period presents numerous hurdles, including finding a new job within a tight timeframe, complex paperwork for transferring H1-B status, and delays in processing at USCIS.

“As a result, many H1-B workers are forced to leave the country, which could result in a loss of skilled labour for the United States.” 

Alongside government support, business schools have also offered assistance for laid off tech workers, including providing application deadline extensions and fee waivers. 

The cuts, which are largely due to the challenging economic environment and a pandemic-induced hiring spree, have extended beyond the technology industry. 

Big Three consulting firm McKinsey recently announced 2,000 staff would lose their jobs, while leading financial institutions, Goldman Sachs and BlackRock have also laid off staff. 

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