H1B holders may face deportation as coronavirus triggers layoffs

Washington: Many US companies are laying off Indian employees who are working on H1B visas.

According to a data released by the US Department of Labour and Statistics, since March, the unemployment claims in the USA have reached a staggering 3000% with more than 6.6 million people filing for unemployment benefits.

According to media reports, once the employee laid off, employees will no longer be able to access the health insurance provided by their employers.

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Employees who are on H1-B visas in the USA would have only 60 days to find another job opportunity or leave the country.

Fearing massive layoffs in USA due to the coronavirus crisis that is hitting businesses around the globe, foreign technology professionals on H-1B visas, the most sought after among Indians, demand the Trump administration extend their permissible post-job loss limit to stay in the USA from the existing 60 to 180 days.

The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows the USA companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

The current federal rules require an H1B visa holder to leave the US along with their family members within 60 days of losing their job.

Economic experts fear massive layoffs in various sectors of the American economy due to the current economic distress that is only going to deteriorate in coming weeks and months. Even as the peak of coronavirus in the US is some two weeks away, millions of people in the US have already lost their jobs.

According to an estimate, some 47 million people could be rendered unemployed. Those on H-1B visas are not eligible to unemployment benefits. They are also not entitled to the social security benefits, even though there is deduction from their salary for this purpose. Initial reports suggest that quite a number of H-1B employees are being laid off. In some cases, companies have already informed their H-1B employees that they are on top of the list of being fired.

“We request the government to temporarily extend the 60-day grace period to 180 days and protect the H1B workers under these difficult times,” says the petition which so far has attracted more than 20,000 signatures.

It requires a minimum of 100,000 petitions to get a response from the White House. The COVID-19 situation is getting worse with massive lay-offs expected. The economic conditions may have a significant impact on H1B workers, the petition says.

“Under regulations, H-1B workers have a 60-day grace period of unemployment time during each authorized validity period to stay in the USA legally. They must find new work within 60 days; otherwise, they have to leave the country,” the petition says.

A total of 782,365 COVID-19 cases have been reported across more than 175 countries and territories with 37,582 deaths reported so far. America has the highest number of cases with a total of 161,807 reported infections, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

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