H-1B Visa Holders in Limbo After Mass Twitter Layoffs: What's Next for Them?
Around 600-700 employees at Twitter are foreign nationals, and reside in the US on different kinds of visas.
The Quint DAILY
For impactful stories you just can’t miss
Foreign nationals in the United States (US) who were sacked by Twitter's new boss Elon Musk find themselves in a tough spot.
Half of Twitter's workforce – around 3,750 workers – were fired on Friday, 4 November, in a shock decision by the eccentric billionaire, leaving them to fend for themselves in a volatile job market.
Around 600-700 employees at the social media company are foreign nationals, including several Indians, and reside in the US on different kinds of visas, according to Forbes. They used to comprise around 8 percent of the company's 7,500-strong workforce, before half of it was axed.
It is, however, unclear how many such visa holders are among those who have been sacked by Musk.
Foreign nationals working in the US typically have either H-1B, O-1, or L-1 visas, each having a specific set of rules. Let us list the differences between the three sets of visa holders, and highlight the implications of being sacked from Twitter for each of them.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant work visa which allows companies in the US to hire foreign nationals for jobs that require special technical or theoretical knowledge.
Such visa holders must have a bachelor's degree or an equivalent document to apply for a job.
For a person to get an H-1B visa, their prospective company must first prove that there is a lack of qualified US citizens who fit the role.
H-1B visa holders are usually engaged in professions like Information Technology, engineering, finance, architecture, etc.
What Will Happen to Sacked H-1B Visa Holders?
If the employment of an H-1B visa holder is terminated, they usually have a grace period of 60 days to find another employer to sponsor them, so that they can continue to stay and work in the US.
One factor that can act as an advantage for H-1B visa holders is that since they have already been counted against the annual H-1B quota, it wont be too difficult for them to secure another job.
However, the fact that they have only 60 days to do so makes the task difficult and their employment in such a short duration uncertain.
Now, here comes the tricky part.
H-1B visa holders whose names have been included in the H-1B lottery in the last six years do not have to wait for the next lottery.
If they are unable to find another employer to sponsor them in the next 60 days, they will have to leave the country but can continue to find a job in the US from their home country. Once they secure a job, they can come back to the US after their new employer sponsors them.
However, the situation is different for those who have not been included in the H-1B lottery in the last six years.
"If an H-1B worker has not been counted in the visa cap in the past six years, and finds a new job only after returning to their home country, they will have to re-enter the lottery pool," LawQuest managing partner Poorvi Chothani was quoted as saying by The Economic Times.
A caveat: Visa holders who are unable to find a new job within 60 days and do not want to leave the US can resort to a temporary solution. They could change their visas to a B-2 (tourist visa) or enroll in a college on an F-1 (student visa) and continue living in the US for an additional amount of time.
However, this is based on the assumption that the person will be able to sustain themselves financially in the US for the additional time they have been granted, as they will not have the right to work in the country on a B-2 or an F-1 visa.
Such avenues can be availed only to "buy time," and if somebody absolutely does not want to leave the country.
L-1 visas are given to those people who come to the US as part of intracompany transfers, and possess either specialised knowledge or working in managerial positions.
The company in question must be a parent, subsidiary, branch office or affiliate of the foreign company. Such transfers are usually common in multinational corporations.
L-1 visas are of two types: L-1A and L-1B
L-1A visas are provided to those transferees who work in managerial or executive positions of a company. These visas are valid for a period of three years, but can be extended to a total of seven years.
L-1B visas are provided to those transferees who work in positions requiring specialised knowledge. These visas are valid for a period of three years, but can be extended to a total of five years.
What Will Happen to Sacked L-1 Visa Holders?
The situation for L-1 visa holders is far harder compared to their H-1B counterparts.
Since these visa holders are intracompany transferees, their employment cannot be shifted to another employer.
Hence, L-1 visa holders will typically have to leave the country immediately after being sacked from Twitter.
An O-1 visa is given to extraordinarily talented people in the fields of science, education, art, business, athletics, etc. A person who gets such a visa must be recognised nationally or internationally for their talents.
The visa allows such people to come to the US and work on a specific project or participate in an event.
The difference between the O-1 visa and the H-1B visa is that in the case of the former, there is no limit/cap to the number of people who can be provided the visa in a year.
Further, while an H-1B visa holder only needs to have a bachelor's degree, the qualifications for an O-1 visa holder are much higher i.e. they must have reached the very top of their field to apply for the visa, and possess qualifications that far outweigh a bachelor's degree – such as a PhD.
What Will Happen to Sacked O-1 Visa Holders?
Despite the differences between the H-1B and O-1 visa holders, both groups of candidates get a grace period to look for other employment.
However, the duration of the grace period differs for different kinds of O-1 visa holders. In some cases, the time granted for an O-1 visa holder to find another job is extremely short.
"While H-1B visa holders have a 60-day grace period, it's much more difficult for workers on L-1 and O-1 visas. They may have to leave soon after their employment is terminated, except in rare circumstances," Chothani said.
(With inputs from Forbes and The Economic Times.)
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)
Read and Breaking News at the Quint, browse for more from news and world
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.