Amidst massive layoffs in the American tech sector that have resulted in a large number of Indian professionals being jobless, two Indian-American organisations have launched an online petition urging 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 US 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.
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“On behalf of immigrants (from the world, mainly from India and China) as well as naturalised citizens like Indian-Americans, Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies and Global Technology Professionals Association (GITPRO) has submitted an appeal to the President of the United States, the Secretary of DHS (Department of Homeland Security) and the director of USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) to extend the current grace period from 60 days to 1 year (minimum 6 months),” the online petition said.
“We join the appeal and request to sympathetically consider the impact of the families on humanitarian grounds. We believe that this extension will pause this brain drain and ensure that the US will continue to be a world leader in technology and innovation. We also request elected officials to support this extension and if needed introduce a bill in the House of Representatives,” said the online petition that has been signed by more than 2,200 people so far.
According to LayoffTracker.com, 91,000 were laid off just in January 2023 and this number may grow in the coming months. This has a huge impact on them, and their families, especially on the H-1B holders who would need to leave the US immediately within 10 days beyond the H-1B grace period, the petition said.
In addition to the impact on them and their families, this is also a long-term impact on the talent that the US has. For example, 70 per cent of startup founders are immigrants. About 50+ CEOs of public companies are of Indian origin. Hence, the exodus of this talent from the US is harmful for the long-term interests of the US, especially in the modern age of Artificial Intelligence competition, it said.
“The laid-off H-1B holders currently have about 60 days to find another employer to file for the H-1B transfer or leave the country. During the current economic situation, it would be impossible for these hardworking, tax-paying and talented people to get hired till the economy recovers,” said the petition.
Meanwhile, a Facebook group of overseas Indians has launched a petition urging the Indian government to hire the laid-off Indian tech workers in the US.
“Considering the ongoing layoff situation, we are requesting you to consider hiring the recently laid-off and returning Indian IT workers as consultants as part of the digitisation initiatives undertaken by your ministries,” said the letter addressed to Ashwini Vaishnav, the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology.