With the coronavirus pandemic pushing global economies to a state of recession and promoting layoffs in the US, the H1B visa holders from India were allowed a 60 days time period to leave the country. Despite the announcement from the government, many of the H1B migrants failed to take the warnings seriously and are now forced to act upon swiftly by the government to leave the US by June.
Most of the H1B visa holders are unprepared, surviving with unpaid leaves, while India closes borders with nationwide lockdown imposed since March 24. These immigrants are stuck - no way to return back home with their family to India, but continuing to dwell in tension on how to pay back student loans, home loans and other expenses. This situation has made many lose sleep.
While a petition has been filed in the White House seeking an extension of up to 180 days for H1B workers to leave the country, the final decision, however, has not been announced yet.
Thousands of Americans go jobless, immigrants are fired from jobs
Ten of thousands of Americans have lost jobs in the past two months, since the Covid-19 outbreak. But it's the immigrants in the US, who are in much greater trouble with employers furloughing workers, reducing wages, and in some cases allowing them to work from home violating visa requirements.
Also, H1B workers who have been terminated, have only little days on hand until June-end to find another job in the US or pack their bags to return home. Further, due to disruption in national services, some employees are unable to renew their visas. This leaves them stuck amidst nowhere when the lockdown ends.
Without proactive action from the government, these issues could have a profound effect on thousands of immigrant workers, with unfilled vacant positions in companies and a huge negative impact on the economy.
It is still unclear if the government may extend visa deadlines for H1B workers but in cases, it will provide special assistance to people who have been affected by circumstances beyond their control. A stable future for immigrant populace certainly seems distant in the US.
Trump administration's stance on foreign immigrants entering the US
The Trump administration has taken a hard stance on immigration and foreign-born workers, with the number of non-immigrant visas issued in the recent past being on a steady decline. If this wasn't enough, the Homeland security department is closing embassies and consulate operations. There is little guidance for people on renewal of visas, thus making them fall under the illegal status in current times.
Also, in-person services in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, has been suspended from March 18 until June 4, a long 78-day gap in service is making immigrants wait, and stay to find better clarity at the cost of expiring visas.
As recently, Trump tweeted on a temporary ban on all immigration services to protect jobs for Americans. An executive order followed to block all immigrants from outside the US, from receiving green cards for the next 60 days. This has fueled a sense of disappointment amongst the H1B immigrants who have waited for years to secure the US green card.
Companies are dealing with one of the toughest decision-making times in history with the raging coronavirus pandemic - is a) whether to fire foreign employees working on visas and furlough U.S.-born workers, or b) keep H-1B workers on payroll to maintain legal status and fire U.S. born staffers. There's a risk to employers in either of the approaches if followed, exposing themselves to potential discrimination lawsuits.
At the other extreme end are new employees who have recently received job offers from the U.S employers, but visa and immigration services were stalled due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The immigration ban now imposed by the Trump government is making employees rethink and reconsider their decisions on - whether to chase the American dream or choose to stay back in their home country.