When a person is in the U.S. on a work visa and loses their job, the situation becomes immediately complex due to the conditions tied to most work visa categories. These visas are employer-specific, meaning they are granted based on an individual’s employment with a particular company.
Losing a job doesn’t just mean a loss of income. It can directly affect one’s legal status in the United States. The consequences and available actions following job loss vary by visa type, but some general principles apply across the board.
Upon termination of employment, visa holders typically have a grace period to adjust their status, find new employment or prepare to leave the country. For many work visas a 60-day grace period is allowed. The steps taken during this time are pivotal in avoiding the consequences of overstaying a visa, which can lead to difficulties re-entering the U.S.
Finding new employment
For those looking to remain in the U.S., finding new employment within the grace period is critical. The new job must also qualify under the conditions of the existing work visa. For example, for an H-1B visa holder, this means finding an employer willing to sponsor a visa transfer. The process involves the new employer filing a petition on behalf of the visa holder.
Changing visa status
Another option is to change one’s visa status to another type that better reflects their new situation. This could involve applying for a student visa if planning to attend an educational institution or a tourist visa if needing more time to arrange departure or next steps. Each visa type has specific requirements and timelines for application.
Departing the U.S.
If a visa holder is unable to secure new employment or change visa status within the grace period, the individual must prepare to leave the United States to avoid overstaying their visa. Overstaying can lead to being barred from returning to the U.S. for a period of time and affect future visa applications.
Seeking legal assistance during this process is beneficial for visa holders. This is generally the only way that people facing this situation can determine the best options for their circumstances.