By David McInnis, President & Founder of Willard Powell, Inc., Board Trustee at Lasell University, Board Advisor of ViaTrustUSA, a Veteran support network
Over the years, I’ve helped clients build engineering teams that require individuals with highly specialized skills. In many cases, the desired talent pool requires visa sponsorship. As an example, in financial services Big Data engineering, greater than 70% of those having the skills to work on multi-petabyte environments, require work visa.
This experience required me to become familiar with and advise on the process of transferring H-1B visas and the pursuit of Permanent Residency (Green Card). Employees and employers are required to invest significant time and dollars through a rigorous process:
- Job posting, and employment offer
- Working with immigration counsel, petitioning
- Validation of H-1B status (form I-797, I-94 arrival/departure records)
- Portability provision
- Requesting premium processing
- Filing and following up with USCIS
- Employment onboarding
- Obtaining a labor certification
- Form I-140, visa availability
- Adjustment of status (I-485), consular processing
- Conditional permanent residency, and receipt of Green Card (form I-155)
The process is very stressful for the employee, to say the least. In our system, it can take many years for one to receive a Green Card. I’ve spent many hours listening/hearing (foreign national) candidates and employees express their great desire to tirelessly work and provide for their families. And many have become lifelong friends. They have great pride in their journey to the U.S., advancing our system, and in pursuing permanent residency here.
In the midst of the heated discussions surrounding immigration, particularly focused on the southern border, one crucial aspect has been largely overlooked: the fate of H-1B workers who have recently been let go from their employer.
Today, as Big Tech and Big Banks implement significant reductions in force, it is essential to consider the implications for those individuals who rely on H-1B sponsorship to remain in the country. Currently, these workers face a tight 60-day deadline to secure new employment before risking deportation. Given the prevailing economic conditions, it becomes evident that the existing “H1B 60-day Grace Period” falls short in providing adequate support and care for these individuals. This article explores the pressing need for policy change to address the concerns of H-1B workers affected by layoffs during a recession.
The Plight of H-1B Workers: H-1B workers, highly skilled individuals brought to the United States by American employers, have made significant contributions to various sectors such as technology, finance, and engineering. However, recent waves of workforce reductions have raised concerns about the future of these workers and their ability to remain in the country. Firms are experiencing historically low rates of attrition, forcing an acceleration of reduction in force. Many H-1B recipients face the daunting task of finding new employment within just 60 days, failing which they risk being sent back to their home countries. To compound the challenge, these workers cannot simply accept any job but must find employers within their specific field who are willing to sponsor their visa.
Inadequacy of the 60-Day Grace Period: Given the current economic conditions and the complexities of the job market, the 60-day limit for H-1B workers is inadequate and fails to offer sufficient time and resources to navigate their career transitions. This grace period, which was designed to provide a safety net for H-1B workers facing job loss, must be reevaluated to reflect the realities of today’s employment landscape. The existing timeframe places undue pressure on these individuals, making it challenging to secure suitable job opportunities within such a limited window.
Importance of Policy Change: To ensure fair treatment and support for H-1B workers impacted by layoffs, it is crucial to consider an extension to the 60-day grace period. Extending the timeframe would allow these highly skilled professionals to explore various employment options more effectively, improving their chances of securing suitable positions in their respective fields. By granting them a reasonable timeframe to navigate the job market, policymakers can demonstrate their commitment to attracting and retaining top talent, while also acknowledging the invaluable contributions H-1B workers make to the American economy.
Collaboration between Government and Industries: Addressing the challenges faced by H-1B workers requires collaboration between government entities and industries. Government agencies responsible for immigration and labor policies should engage in dialogue with technology, finance, and other sectors that employ H-1B workers. By understanding the unique circumstances and concerns of these industries, policymakers can work together with employers to devise effective solutions. This collaboration could involve implementing more flexible visa policies or establishing support systems to assist H-1B workers during their job search and transition period.
The current market conditions are volatile. Firms are taking advantage of market disruptions, as an opportunity to transform; they are reducing headcount, redeploying talent, and hiring new talent, all at once. In a recent memo to staff BlackRock’s “chief operating officer, Rob Goldstein, and global head of human resources, Caroline Heller, said that the fresh round of job cuts followed a recent business review process. Despite the layoffs, BLK’s headcount at the end of this year will be higher than that at the beginning of the year.” Through this disruption, there needs to be greater care and compassion for H-1B workers and their families.
While the debate on immigration has largely focused on the southern border, it is crucial not to overlook the fate of H-1B workers impacted by workforce reductions. The existing 60-day grace period fails to provide adequate support during job transitions, putting these skilled professionals at risk of deportation.
Addressing this issue requires policymakers to consider policy changes or an extension to the grace period, allowing H-1B workers a reasonable timeframe to secure suitable employment within their field. By fostering collaboration between government agencies and industries, a more holistic approach can be taken to ensure the fair treatment and care of H-1B workers, recognizing their valuable contributions to the American economy. By implementing policy reforms and extending the grace period, we can demonstrate our commitment to inclusivity, fairness, and the retention of top talent. It is crucial that we prioritize the well-being and future prospects of H-1B workers, acknowledging their integral role in driving innovation and economic growth. Through collaborative efforts and a comprehensive approach, we can navigate the complexities of immigration policy while ensuring that H-1B workers receive the support they deserve. By addressing this overlooked issue, we can strive for a more equitable and prosperous future for all.
1. Reuters. “KPMG to cut 5% of US jobs in fresh round of layoffs.” reuters.com, 26 June, 2023, https://www.reuters.com/business/finance/kpmg-cut-5-us-jobs-fresh-round-layoffs-2023-06-26/.
2. NPR. “When big tech laid off these H-1B workers, a countdown began.” npr.org, 16 June, 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/06/01/1179433010/h1b-visa-tech-workers-amazon-google-layoffs.
3. Yahoo. “BlackRock (BLK) Slashes Jobs Amid Budget Reallocation Move.” finance.yahoo.com 26 June, 2023, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/blackrock-blk-slashes-jobs-amid-143400999.html.