Mass layoffs in the technology space have forced many workers living in the US to rely on temporary visas. This leaves them with little time to find a new job or else depart. The tech industry has been relying on the H-1B visa programme to meet its need for workers in specialized fields such as computer science and engineering. The layoffs also impacted a lot of Indian employees working in the tech sector being laid off amid wait for their US green card.
How does it affect the employees?
Tech companies, including Amazon, Lyft, Meta, Salesforce, Stripe, and Twitter, have been sponsoring at least 45,000 H-1B workers in the past three years, according to a Bloomberg analysis of data from US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
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Going by the reports compiled by employees at Meta and Twitter at least 350 immigrants have been affected by the job cuts, according to the Bloomberg report. H-1B holders who become unemployed can stay put in the US for only 60 days legally in absence of new employers sponsoring them, the report quoted. Several of them with H-1B visas in the US have been waiting for years to get permanent citizenship.
While many major employers have frozen hiring and recruiting is typically slower during the holidays.
What does the H1-B program entail?
Under, H-1B programme, employers in the US can recruit foreign workers with college degrees in technical fields. Visas are issued for three years, with possible extensions. The number of people allowed in each year is capped at 85,000, and demand is high, particularly among Indian professionals.
The median salary for an H-1B worker was $106,000 in the third quarter, as per the data from the US Department of Labor. However, employees at top tech companies earn much more. The median salary for an H-1B worker at Meta, Salesforce and Twitter was about $175,000, not including hefty bonuses and stock options, the report added.
How does it impact Indian employees?
The layoffs hugely impacted Indians, who remained on temporary visas way more than other foreign groups due to backlogs in obtaining permanent residency (a green card). A country typically gets a maximum of 7 per cent of the employment-based green cards issued each year. Hence, if there are almost half a million Indian nationals in the queue, only about 10,000 green cards a year are available for them.
A congressional report estimated that the waiting time for Indians who applied in 2020 goes to as long as 195 years for a green card. Chinese workers have to wait up to 18 years, while people from the rest of the world it less than a year.
An H-1B holder from India, who just bought a house in Seattle to start a job with Meta, is now looking for a company to sponsor his visa transfer. The father of two with an MBA, who lived in the US for 15 years, is hoping to find a job as a technical product or program manager. He’s been scouring his networks on LinkedIn, joining dedicated WhatsApp groups and submitting application after application, according to the Bloomberg report.