As coronavirus hits US businesses, impending layoffs worry H-1B visa holders

Photo courtesy: Wikimedia
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit businesses around the globe, including in the United States. Afraid that there may be mass layoffs caused by the pandemic, foreign technology professionals who have H-1B visas have demanded that 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, which is a non-immigrant visa that allows the US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations, is heavily sought after by Indians who constitute a large share of those who hold these visas. 

Under current rules, an H-1B visa holder can stay in the United States for 60 days after losing their job, after which they are required to leave along with their family members. 

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has led to many economic experts predicting massive layoffs in various sectors of the American economy with the US Labour Department reporting a record 3.3 million applications for unemployment benefits for the week ending March 21. 

According to reports, many H-1B employees are being laid off while some have been told that they are likely to lose their jobs. 

H-1B visa holders have now started a petition campaign on the White House website to extend the timeline for their stay in the US after they lose their jobs. 

"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. 

"Most H-1B workers are from India and cannot travel home with children who are US Citizens as many nations announced an entry ban, including India. H-1B workers cater to the economy at large, mainly supporting the IT Industry with high tax contributions," adds the petition, which so far has attracted more than 20,000 signatures.

It requires a minimum of 100,000 signatures to get a response from the White House.