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When layoffs become a reality, what options do H-1B visa holders have?

Ask more than one person who has gone through the unfortunate experience of being laid off about the event and chances are very good that they'll all share a similar story. Indeed, many will likely relate how they -- and their co-workers -- were asked to gather in a large meeting space only to be informed that their employer was downsizing or "going in a different direction."

They'll likely also relate how their thoughts immediately turned to their family and/or their finances after hearing the bad news. Still others, particularly those who were here on an H-1B visa, might relate how their thoughts immediately turned to their immigration status.

This makes perfect sense for H-1B visa holders, given that the stakes are considerably higher for them, as they are unaware as to whether they should begin looking for new work or begin packing their belongings to return home.

The answer as to which course of action they should take depends largely upon the circumstances leading up to the layoff. Specifically, whether their former employer provided advance notice of the layoff and whether they were able to secure a new job.

H-1B visa holders laid off with advance notice

If an H-1B visa holder is fortunate enough to receive advance notice of a layoff from an employer and locate another position with a qualified H-1B employer prior to the date of the planned termination, they may be in luck.

Specifically, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services states that if 1) this new employer files the Form I-129 on the H-1B visa holder's behalf during the timeframe before the layoffs and 2) the H-1B visa holder maintains valid status, he or she may be permitted to change employers without leaving the country.

If the Form I-129 isn't filed until after the layoffs are completed, however, it may prove necessary for the now laid-off H-1B visa holder to temporarily return home while their visa for the new employer is processed.

We'll continue this discussion in a future post, exploring more about the options available to H-1B visa holders laid off without advance notice.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns relating to an employment-related immigration matter, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional.

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