Visa Grace Period Extension Could Resolve H-1B Holders’ Job Loss Nightmare: Indian-American Entrepreneur

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The recent massive firing of professionals in the tech industry is a nightmare for those on H-1B visas, an Indian-American technology entrepreneur and academic has said, asserting that this can be addressed if President Joe Biden issues an executive order to extend the grace period from them from 60 days to six months.

This means that once fired from a job, a foreign tech worker on H-1B visas would have six months to find a new job instead of the existing duration of 60 days, after which they have to leave the country.

“(President) Biden could pass an executive order extending the amount of time (H-1B) people (who have lost jobs) from 60 days to six months. Let them take a break and let them have the time to find a new job. That’s a very simple thing that can be done tomorrow,” Vivek Wadhwa, Distinguished Fellow and Adjunct Professor at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Engineering at Silicon Valley told PTI.

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

Wadhwa, who is also a Distinguished Fellow at the Labor and Worklife Programme at Harvard Law School said that it is nothing but a “nightmare” for the people on H-1B visas who have been fired by tech companies.

According to The Washington Post, since last November more than 200,000 people have been fired by top tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook.

“If they don’t get a job within 60 days then they have to leave the country. Imagine if you’ve been working for Facebook for the last 10 to 12 years and waiting for your green card, you’re in line and desperately waiting…you bought a house, you’re settled in here, everything is okay, Facebook is a great company and then you get laid off overnight,” he said.

“It’s really a big issue for these H-1Bs. It is a lose-lose situation for everyone,” he said. Because of the nature of H-1B, it would be difficult for them to find a new job.

“Another complication with this is that if you’re a Programme Analyst when you start the process, you can’t become a manager. That’s a new job (in the eyes of US Citizenship and Immigration Services),” Wadhwa said.

“So essentially, you have to now get a job in the same role you had 12 years ago. You’re stuck. Your career is stagnated. And then you could be thrown out at a moment’s notice. This is ridiculous. That’s you know, why put up with this when they can get equally good jobs or better jobs in India, they can sometimes get comparable salaries,” he observed.

Wadhwa, in fact, warned the United States that this might turn the tide against them as the talented youths and techies would go back to their home country.

“It’s been a complete mess. I wrote a book about it called Exodus, which predicted that the tide will turn and people will start returning home, and it will have dozens of billion-dollar companies in India to help. That’s exactly what happened. We have dozens of billion-dollar companies in India, and the Indian ecosystem is booming,” he said.

Meanwhile, Indiaspora on Tuesday released a list of its member companies that have expressed interest in hiring H-1B visa holders. Prominent among them include Tredence, Cloudflare, Meylah, Women in Cloud, Clearwater Analytics, Vertex, Zipline, One Valley, Tech Mahindra, Crave, and Pubmatic.



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