The U.S. has announced that individuals travelling to the country on a business or tourist visa — B-1 and B-2 — can apply for new jobs and even appear in interviews, but the prospective employees must ensure that they have changed their visa status before starting a new role.
B-1 and B-2 visas are generally referred to as “B visas”, and they are the most common types of visa issued for a wide range of uses in the United States. The B-1 visa is issued mainly for short-term business trips, while the B-2 visa is issued mainly travelling for tourism purposes.
In a note, and a series of tweets, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said on March 22 when nonimmigrant workers are laid off, they may not be aware of their options and may, in some instances, wrongly assume that they have no option but to leave the country within 60 days.
The move by the USCIS came as thousands of highly skilled foreign-born workers, including Indians, in the U.S., have lost their jobs due to a series of recent layoffs at companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.
They are now struggling to find new employment within the stipulated 60-day period under their work visas following the termination of their employment to stay in the country.
The maximum 60-day grace period starts the day after termination of employment, which is typically determined based on the last day for which a salary or wage is paid.
When a nonimmigrant worker's employment is terminated, either voluntarily or involuntarily, they typically may take one of the several actions, if eligible, to remain in a period of authorised stay in the United States.
These include filing an application for a change of nonimmigrant status; filing an application for adjustment of status; filing an application for a "compelling circumstances" employment authorisation document; or being the beneficiary of a nonfrivolous petition to change employer.
"If one of these actions occurs within the up to 60-day grace period, the nonimmigrant's period of authorised stay in the United States can exceed 60 days, even if they lose their previous nonimmigrant status," the USCIS said.
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If the worker takes no action within the grace period, they and their dependents may then need to depart the United States within 60 days, or when their authorised validity period ends, whichever is shorter, it said.
"Many people have asked if they can look for a new job while in B-1 or B-2 status. The answer is, yes. Searching for employment and interviewing for a position are permissible B-1 or B-2 activities," the USCIS said in a series of tweets.
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At the same time, the USCIS said that before beginning any new employment, a petition and request for a change of status from B-1 or B-2 to an employment-authorised status must be approved, and the new status must take effect.
"Alternatively, if the change of status request is denied or the petition for new employment requested consular or port of entry notification, the individual must depart the U.S. and be admitted in an employment-authorised classification before beginning the new employment," the USCIS said.
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Amidst massive layoffs in the American tech sector that have resulted in a large number of Indian professionals being jobless, two Indian-American organisations launched an online petition last month, urging U.S. President Joe Biden to extend the grace period of H-1B visas holders from two months to a year.
This means that once fired from a job, a foreign tech worker on H-1B visas would have one year to find a new job instead of the existing duration of 60 days, after which they have to leave the country.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. 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.