Workers with Non-Immigrant Visas Victimized

Employees issued with non-immigrant visas like H-1B and L-1 are typically the first to be laid off by U.S. companies during economic downturns. Because their visas depend on a single employer, they often face challenges to retain their visa status. Houston-area immigration attorney, Annie Banerjee, decries the inequity of it all.

Losing a job is never easy. Few people enjoy being laid off or fired. During this shallow Depression that the U.S. has been mired in since the fall of 2007, millions of U.S. citizens have lost their jobs, or are referred to as “underemployed.” Employees living in the United States who are here on non-immigrant visas like H-1B and L-1 face a peculiar and daunting situation. If they are laid off or lose their job, they not only lose their job, they lose their sponsor. Once they are unemployed, they are forced to obtain a new employer to sponsor them in this country within just 30 days, which is actually an unofficial grace period. They are allowed to convert to a visitor or student visa, but U.S. authorities have been increasingly denying the applications of such changed classifications for unemployed workers.

“I had a client who’d been employed for an oil company for 25 years in Saudi Arabia, and subsequently for an additional year in the U.S. Abruptly, he was laid off. Because he is an Indian national, his only option was to return to India. His house must be sold, and the current real estate market guarantees a substantial loss. An even more insidious cost to his sudden forced departure from the U.S. involves the plights of his teenaged children and their educational and social needs. The school system in India will seem foreign to them,” asserts immigration lawyer Annie Banerjee.

By U.S. law, non-immigrants lose their status when they are let go from their jobs. The CIS is now extremely stringent with foreign-born workers overstaying their visas and remaining in the country illegally. But with harsh circumstances they are forced to deal with, those workers initially granted H-1B and L-1 visas who lose their jobs, and hence their U.S. sponsor, adversity beckons in many ways.

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