Layoffs in the US due to the coronavirus pandemic that is having an adverse effect on businesses could endanger H1-B visa holders, who could run the risk of losing their status.
Around 250,000 guest workers trying to obtain a green card in the US, with 200,000 of them on H-1B visas, could potentially lose their legal status by June end, Jeremy Neufeld, an immigration policy analyst with the Washington DC-based think tank Niskanen Center told Bloomberg.
Additionally, scores of more individuals, who are not looking for resident status, may also be compelled to go back home, Neufeld added.
Close to three-quarters of H-1B visas are given to those employed in the technology sector, the report said.
Over the last two months, millions of Americans have been laid off. However, workers on visas are more prone to hardships. This is because H1-B visas are linked to location and an employer who agrees to award the recipient a basic salary. Pay cuts and even work from home arrangements often go against the visa rules. H-1B workers who are fired have 60-days to find a new job, shift to a different visa type or return home. Even for workers who are able to hold on to their jobs, Covid-19 has posed a great challenge as they won’t be able to get their visas renewed.
The visa crisis, experts note, is dealing a big blow to the workers who are already reeling under the onslaught of the pandemic.
Doug Rand, co-founder Boundless Immigration Inc., an enterprise that helps people steer through the immigration system told Bloomberg that the visa crisis is creating “a catastrophe at a human level and an economic level.”
Complicating matters further, H-1B workers usually have families who are dependent on them for official approval to stay in the country.
“It’s just a mess,” Rand added. Efforts, however, are on to reduce the impact of this unprecedented situation.
TechNet, a lobbying group with members including tech giants like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, joined an array of trade groups urging for succour to foreign-born workers, according to Bloomberg's report. In a letter sent to the State and Homeland Security departments on April 17, they requested for a deferring in work authorization expiration dates until at least September 10.
The Trump administration is yet to reply to the letter. It has repeatedly adopted a hard-line position on the issue of immigration and foreign-born workers. The number of non-immigrant visas issued in 2019 fell sharply for the fourth consecutive year, to 8.7 million from 10.9 million in 2015, the report said quoting State Department data.