January 27, 2023

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Tech layoffs leave visa holders scrambling to stay in the US

Tech layoffs leave visa holders scrambling to stay in the US

After years of seemingly unlimited expansion, the US tech industry has hit a wall. Companies are in cash conservation mode, cutting thousands of jobs a month and Layoffs increased in November.

While the sudden loss of a paycheck can be devastating for anyone, especially during the holiday season, the recent wave of cutbacks is having a significant impact on skilled workers who live in the US on temporary visas and are at risk of being sent home if they cannot secure a new job in time. short.

Technology companies are among the employers with the most approvals for H-1B visas, which are given to people in specialized professions that often require a college degree and additional training. Silicon Valley relied for years on government-issued temporary visas to employ thousands of foreign workers in technical fields such as engineering, biotechnology and computer science. This is a big reason for tech companies It has been outspoken in their defense immigrant rights.

Workers on temporary visas often have 60 to 90 days to find a new job so they can avoid deportation.

“It’s the amazing pool of talent that the United States is fortunate to attract,” he said, “and they’re always living on edge.” Sophie AlcornInc., an immigration attorney based in Mountain View, California, who specializes in securing visas for tech workers. “A lot of them face the 60-day grace period deadline. They have a chance to find a new job to take care of them, and if they can’t do that they have to leave the US, so it’s a stressful time for everyone.”

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The already bleak situation worsened in November, when metaAnd the AmazonTwitter, liftAnd the sales forceAnd the HP And the DoorDash They announced significant cuts to their workforce. More than 50,000 tech workers were let go from their jobs in November, according to data compiled by the site. Layoffs.

Amazon has given laid-off employees 60 days to seek a new role within the company, after which they will be offered termination, according to a former Amazon Web Services employee who lost his job. The person spoke to CNBC on condition of anonymity.

In fiscal year 2021, Amazon had the most approved petitions for H-1B visas, with 6,182, according to National Institute for American Politics US immigration data review. The GoogleAnd the ibm And the Microsoft It also ranked near the top of the list.

The former AWS employee was in country for 2 years on student and employment visas. He said he was laid off unexpectedly at the beginning of November, just months after he joined the company as an engineer. Although Amazon told him he had 60 days to find another job internally, the person said his manager advised him to apply for jobs elsewhere because of the company’s hiring backsliding. Amazon said in November that it Temporarily suspend employment for the company’s workforce.

An Amazon spokesperson did not offer comment beyond what CEO Andy Jassy said last month, When I tell those affected by layoffs That the company will help them find new roles.

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Companies generally do not specify the percentage of people being laid off who hold visas. A search for “H1B layoffs” on LinkedIn turns up a series of posts from workers who have recently lost their jobs expressing concern about the 60-day unemployment window. The former AWS employee said that visa holders share resources on Discord servers, the anonymous professional network Blind and in WhatsApp groups.

It’s already been a hectic few years for foreign workers in the US long before soaring inflation and fears of a recession triggered the latest round of job cuts.

The Trump administration’s hostile attitude toward immigration has put the H-1B program at risk. as president in 2020, Donald Trump She signed an executive order suspending work visas, including those with H-1B status, claiming that they harm Americans’ job prospects. the movement He received a strong reprimand from tech executives, who said the program serves as a pipeline of talented individuals and strengthens American companies. President Joe Biden Permissible The ban ends under Trump last year.

Whatever the relief Biden The offered presidency is of limited value to those who are now out of work. A recently laid off engineer by a genetic sequencing technology company Illumina He said he hopes his employer will sponsor a transfer to the H-1B visa. He’s here on a different visa, known as Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows STEM graduates to work in the United States for up to three years after graduation.

The former Illumina employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, not only has to find a new job within 90 days of the layoff date, but his OPT visa expires in August. Any company that hires him must be willing to sponsor the transfer of the visa and pay the relevant fees. He is considering returning to school in order to extend his stay in the United States, but is concerned about obtaining student loans.

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Illumina he said in november It was cutting about 5% of its global workforce. A company spokesperson told CNBC that less than 10% of affected employees were here on H-1B or related visas.

“We are engaging with each employee individually so they understand the impact of employment eligibility and options for remaining in the United States,” the spokesperson said via email. “We are working to review each case to ensure great care is taken for those affected, and to ensure compliance with immigration law.”

The former employee said he dreamed of working for Illumina, putting down roots in the US and buying a home. Now, he said, he’s just trying to find a way to stay in the country without getting into debt. In just a matter of months, he said, “it’s like the difference between day and night.”

Watch: Technical layoffs double from October to November