2 lakh H-1B workers could lose legal status by June
The coronavirus pandemic has presented an additional obstacle for guest workers in the United States. According to Bloomberg, about 2.5 lakh guest workers seeking a green card in the US could lose their legal status by the end of June. This includes roughly two lakh H-1B workers. Recently, US President Donald Trump had also announced a 60-day immigration ban for green card-seekers.
Those not seeking resident status could also be forced out
An immigration policy analyst with the Washington DC-based think-tank Niskanen Center, Jeremy Neufeld, told Bloomberg that two lakh H-1B workers could lose their legal status by June. Neufeld also said that those who are not seeking resident status could also be forced to return home. Roughly three-quarters of H-1B visa holders are people who work in the technology industry.
Millions left jobless amid pandemic; workers on visas worried
COVID-19 has rendered tens of millions of US workers jobless, leaving workers on visas more vulnerable than natives. H-1B workers who lose their jobs have to find employment within 60 days. Failure to do so is a violation of visa requirements and they have to transfer to a different visa or leave the country. In some cases, even work from home violates visa requirements.
Dentist couple fears being forced to return to India
Manasi Vasavada and her husband Nandan Buch are dentists in New Jersey on H-1B visas. Vasavada's dental practice in Passaic County closed its doors in mid-March due to COVID-19. She has been on an unpaid leave of absence since. The couple fears that they may be forced to return to India where—even if they find employment—paying their combined $520,000 student debt could prove impossible.
In between jobs, Australian man burns through savings
An Australian, Shawn Noronha was dismissed from his job at a fintech startup in San Francisco in January. Although he found a new job, the pandemic hit before he could visit the Australian consulate to update his paperwork. Noronha changed his status from a working visa to a tourist visa, however, that only buys him time until June. Meanwhile, he's burning through his savings.
Duolingo could have to move jobs abroad
The situation has also impacted companies like Duolingo Inc. that has one-fifth of its 250-person staff working on H-1Bs or other visas. Co-founder Luis von Ahn, an immigrant from Guatemala, said the company may have to move jobs abroad. Meanwhile, other companies that are forced to cut staff have to choose between firing foreign or US workers—risking discrimination lawsuits either way.
'Catastrophe at human and economic level'
Doug Rand, who worked on technology and immigration policy in the Obama administration, described the situation as a "catastrophe at a human level and an economic level." Rand co-funds Boundless Immigration Inc., a company that helps people navigate the immigration system.
Lobbying group TechNet seeks relief for foreign workers
The lobbying group TechNet—whose members include Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft—joined a coalition of trade groups seeking relief for foreign workers in a letter sent to the State and Homeland Security departments on April 17. The letter has sought to defer the expiration of work authorization to foreign workers at least until September 10. The Trump administration has not responded to the letter.
'No one here is at fault in any way'
"We've seen the administration extend tax filing deadlines," said Alex Burgos, senior vice president of federal policy and government relations at TechNet. Burgos argued that similar flexibility can be allowed in visa programs since "no one here is at fault in any way."
USCIS says it may provide support on request
A US Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesperson declined to respond to Bloomberg's queries about whether the agency would extend visa deadlines. The USCIS, however, said that it may provide special support on request for those affected by circumstances beyond their control. Meanwhile, Trump has been saying that he would protect American jobs as he imposed a 60-day immigration ban for green card-seekers.