Lawfully Remaining in the US After a Layoff: Immigration Options for Foreign Tech Workers

November 14, 2022
Alfred Bridi

Foreign-born tech workers in the U.S. face uncertainty following recent layoffs in the tech sector and a worrying economic forecast for the months ahead. In order to remain in the United States, avoid overstaying their visas, and avoid working illegally (and face the issues that follow), workers on U.S. employment-based visas like the H-1B should look into their immigration options now.

If you are a foreign-born worker on an E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, O-1, or TN visa, it’s worth remembering that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows a 60-day grace period to remain in the United States following a termination. While you’re not able to transfer your I-797 approval notice to a new employer, you are permitted to interview and obtain new work in the U.S. during the grace period. H-1B workers also have the option of filing a change of employer application. Otherwise, foreign nationals can change their status to another visa category such as a visitor, dependent spouse or student, potentially extending their right to remain in the United States well beyond the 60-day grace period.

Overseas travel is not recommended for foreign nationals considering leaving the United States during the grace period. Applicants seeking to process a change of employer or status, for example, could find themselves processing these applications through the U.S. embassies or consulates overseas–and potentially being prohibited from reentering the U.S. until a new work authorization is obtained. As ever, foreign workers must be aware of their ability to work inside the United States and act in accordance with their immigration status, as violations could endanger future visa petitions. 

While layoffs affect an employment-based visa in quite a direct way, there are a number of alternative immigration avenues available to skilled foreign nationals that should be considered, particularly during the 60-day grace period afforded by USCIS.

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Key Takeaways:

  • USCIS allows a 60-day grace period to remain in the US for terminated foreign workers on an E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, O-1, or TN visa. Foreign nationals can potentially extend their right to remain in the US beyond the 60-day grace period by changing their status to another visa category.
  • You are permitted to interview and obtain new work in the US during the grace period, however, it is not recommended to travel outside the US during that time, as it may result in having to process a change of employer or status overseas.
  • It is important to not overstay your US visa and be mindful of your visa’s potential limitations on your ability to work for other employers without filing a new application. US Immigration has a long memory and views such violations harshly so please review all the options legally available under US immigration law.

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