AGENCIES, Washington: Fearing massive layoffs in America due to the coronavirus crisis that is hitting businesses around the globe, foreign technology professionals holding H-1B visas, the most sought after among Indians, have demanded the Trump administration extend their permissible post-job loss limit to stay in the US from the existing 60 to 180 days.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows the US 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 H-1B visa holder to leave the United States 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. Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week amid a widespread economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus. This is a “truly unprecedented” number, according to Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com.
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 deductions 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.
As such, the H-1B visa holders have started a petition campaign on the White House website to extend the timeline for their stay in the US after they are being laid off. “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.