People who hold an H-1B employment visa are permitted to enter and stay within the United States on the grounds that they will perform highly specialized work at their place of occupation. But what happens if a company needs to downsize, or the employee underperforms, and the visa holder loses their job? Will this be grounds to have them removed from the country?
As it currently stands, United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) considers someone’s immigration status in jeopardy the moment they are fired or out-of-work. Employers are instructed to notify the USCIS as soon as possible once they let an H-1 visa holder go, or else they may owe that worker back pay. At this point, the H-1 visa holder is technically not permitted to be within the country.
180-DAY “GRACE PERIOD”
The USCIS cannot feasibly track down and remove H-1 visa employee that gets fired, nor would that really be in the agency’s best interest. Many people who lose their visa status due to workplace termination want to stay in the country and start to look for another job right away. There is an unofficial 180-day period where someone can continue looking for specialized employment as described in their H-1B visa without a high risk of incident.
Keep in mind, however, that this period is unofficial and the USCIS may decide to remove you on day one, if you somehow land on their radar right away. You can also be penalized by being banned from residency or immigration statuses for several years if you stay more than 180 days in the country without a valid visa. If you are looking for a job and it is nearing the 180 day mark since your termination, you should probably plan on returning to your country of origin and reapplying for a visa from there.
CHANGING STATUS TO STAY IN THE STATES
There are three ways some visa holders change their status in order to stay in the country after being terminated.
- Go on vacation: Put the job hunt to the side and take a nice vacation. Start by changing your visa to a B-2 visitor or tourist visa and then go enjoy yourself. However, if you spend this time actively looking for another job, the USCIS might see it as a dishonest act, as you would not be considered on vacation or acting as a tourist.
- Get married: Were you lucky enough to find true love in the United States? If you marry a U.S. citizen, you will likely be able to stay in the country due to a family-based visa. After termination might be the time to consider proposing to that special someone?
- Invest in something big: People who invest a considerable amount of money in a new project, company, or invention may be able to stay within the country. The USCIS is usually only willing to extend this leniency to people who are serious about their investments, so offering up anything less than $100,000 or so might not be convincing.
After getting terminated as an H-1 visa holder, you will be confronted with a lot of questions and just as many options. Let our Montgomery County immigration attorneys at USILaw help you come to the right decision. Contact us today to learn more.