USCIS provides guidance for laid off H-1B workers in response to FIIDS


“When nonimmigrant workers are laid off, most individuals facing job loss already have several options in order to remain in the United States while continuing their job search past 60 days,” said the USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou in a written response to a letter sent by the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies USA (FIIDS) on Feb 27.

FIIDS policy director Khanderao Kand said, “A need to depart the US after layoffs has an immediate impact on the
families of the laid off H1B and their school-going children. Losing these professionals is also a brain drain impacting future competitiveness of the US in the emerging technologies. Hence, FIIDS has launched a multi-phase campaign from awareness building to jointly written letters to the USCIS with elected officials and other prominent organizations,” said FIIDS Policy Director Khanderao Kand.

According to FIIDS, since October 2022, over 250,000 tech employees have been laid off in the US, and this number is growing with companies like Meta and Amazon announcing another round of tens of thousands of layoffs. A large number of these professionals are tax-paying H-1B immigrants (estimated at around 100,000), particularly from India, who need to leave the US within 60 days if they cannot find another employer.

As part of awareness and policy engagement, FIIDS had launched a
media campaign in January 2023 to create awareness about this issue both in India and the US. Subsequently, in February 2023, FIIDS also launched a petition that received more than 2600 sign-ups in a week. Various prominent organizations like the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), US India Business Council (USIBC), American Jewish Committee (AJC), and TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) also supported FIIDS in asking to extend the grace period to at least 180 days.

Congresswomen Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo in their letter to USCIS asserted that the departure of STEM professionals
from the US could also be a national security threat.

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorti said that if retained, these professionals can develop innovative products and potentially start new businesses and
create new jobs while advancing research across critical industries.

Recently, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer mentioned to the Indian American community that this issue can be addressed with a procedure change.
The White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and
Pacific Islanders (WHIAANHPI) under the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department also issued a recommendation to increase the H-1B
grace period.

However, in the USCIS letter to FIIDS, “Because the up to 60-day grace period is codified in DHS regulations at 8 CFR
214.1(l)(2), increasing that grace period would require a regulatory change in compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) to implement and could not be extended by USCIS through policy guidance.”

However, the USCIS, provided options as, 1. File an application for a change of nonimmigrant status like F1, B1/B2, H4 and mentioned that they can continue their job search while on B1 or other visas.
2. The USCIS also listed filing for I-485 adjustment of status or application for employment documentation under compelling circumstances, if applicable. 3. The USCIS also published all the options with FAQs on their website recently, subsequent to the FIIDS letter dated 27th Feb.

Kand said, “We appreciate the USCIS for clearly providing options for the laid
off H-1Bs. These official communications will improve the possibility for the H-1B holders to remain legally in the US. We will still work with the DHS to change the grace period.”

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