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Immigration Law Blog

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Effects of a Lay-Off on Employment-Sponsored Visa

The dragging economy has been tough on immigrants.  An overabundance of citizens looking for work limits the number of some types of visas, and instability in the job market limits the appeal of employment-based visas.  Many workers who have lost their jobs because of the economic slowdown have had to leave the United States in order to avoid violating the law and jeopardizing their ability to return to the U.S. in the future. However, some workers are finding ways to stay in the U.S. legally despite being laid off. 

  • Find another job.  This is somewhat easier said than done, but workers who are able to find a new job can often extend their stay in the U.S. or obtain a new visa.  This works best if the worker knows in advance that his or her current employment will soon be ending and can quickly find a new job before the old employment terminates.

There is technically no "grace period" to find a new job when a worker’s current employment ends (meaning a worker is out of status as soon as they "clock out" for the last time), but the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) often approves petitions to change from one employer to the next if the gap between the two jobs is 30 days or less.

If a worker is out of work (and thus out of status) for more than 30 days, he or she will probably have to leave the country and get a new visa at a U.S. consular office abroad before starting the new job.

If a worker does have to travel abroad to get a new visa, the worker’s former employer may be required to pay for the worker’s trip home.  Whether the employer is required to pay depends on when and how the worker’s job was terminated.

  • Become a dependent. If a worker in the United States on an employment-backed visa loses his or her job, one of the easiest ways to stay in status and prevent deportation is to become the dependent of someone who has legal status. Obviously, this only works if family circumstances allow.

It is important to note that if, for any reason, the worker's family member loses his or her legal status, then the worker who has become that person's dependent will lose his or her status as well.

  • Go to school. Workers who lose their jobs may have their status changed to student (F-1 status) if they are accepted into a full-time program at a college or a university.

Overall, the further in advance a worker knows his or her job is in jeopardy, the easier it is to find a solution that will allow him or her to legally remain in the U.S.  However, it is never too late to contact an experienced immigration attorney.


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