The United States’ harsh stance on immigration, along with several additional factors, is causing the United States to become a less attractive destination for migrant workers. The recent firing of tens of thousands of workers on the H-1B visa will likely lead to the country becoming less popular with a skilled labor force needed to fill jobs within the tech industry.
According to a 2021 survey from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which surveyed 209,000 workers in 190 countries, Canada has become the most favored destination for foreign workers, knocking the United States into second place. While the survey was taken during the heart of a COVID-19 wave of cases within the US, it could be a precursor of increasing negative sentiments for workers looking to relocate to a new country.
Recently, Germany, which ranked 4th on the BCG survey, has proposed a new visa to help the country become attractive to more tech workers wishing to migrate from India. “We want to simplify the issuing of visas,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said during a February 26th public interview with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “We intend to modernize the whole bureaucratic process in addition to legal modernization.”
According to reports, Germany wishes to make a strong push to recruit tech workers from India and work with the country on research and development within the IT field. Scholz’s meeting with Modi came directly at a time when US tech companies were in the midst of laying off thousands of tech workers from India, leading to foreign workers from numerous countries sharing their struggle due to the stress of H-1B visa regulations that require workers to find full-time employment within 60 days of being fired.
Federal regulation 8 CFR § 214.1 establishes the time limit required for H-1B and numerous other visa holders to find new employment. The language establishing the law is below in full:
…An alien admitted or otherwise provided status in E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, O-1 or TN classification and his or her dependents shall not be considered to have failed to maintain nonimmigrant status solely on the basis of a cessation of the employment on which the alien’s classification was based, for up to 60 consecutive days or until the end of the authorized validity period, whichever is shorter, once during each authorized validity period. DHS [Department of Homeland Security] may eliminate or shorten this 60-day period as a matter of discretion. Unless otherwise authorized under 8 CFR 274a.12, the alien may not work during such a period.
With the recent layoffs in the tech industry, H-1B visa holders have come forward in numbers to share their stories with news outlets, and some have taken to social media to share their disappointment in the process. The San Francisco Chronicle allowed an individual named Ankita to write an opinion column on their experience entitled ‘You don’t matter’: What life is like for an H-1B visa family like mine.
…My husband was being sponsored by his company in the U.S. on an H-1B visa, a special temporary work permit for skilled workers, and having recently married, I was going back with him as his dependent, on an H4 visa.
Ankita explains a situation where her husband was working on an H1-B visa during the beginning stages of COVID-19 restrictions within the United States. Ankita’s husband had to return to India to handle his father’s affairs after he passed away and help his mother cope with the loss.
He applied to the U.S. embassy several times for emergency approval to travel back to the U.S. directly, like U.S. citizens and green card holders were allowed to, so he could maximize his time with his mother. But was denied every time. After a few weeks, he made the difficult decision to leave. We flew to Mexico where we stayed in limbo for 14 days before entering the United States.
The message from the U.S. government to us was clear: You don’t matter.
In November 2022, Raju Kadam a former Sr. Technical Program Manager at Meta posted on LinkedIn regarding being laid off during a massive 11,000-employee cut by the tech giant.
Unfortunately, today I received the sad news that I am part of 11,000 employees who were laid off by Meta #Metalayoff I was not expecting to be part [of the] layoff, as I had a strong performance in all quarters since I joined Meta. I started [my] incredible journey to work in Meta 9 months back, but it abruptly came to an end.
Later in the post, Kadam would explain his visa status and the stress which comes with being on an H1-B visa.
…That being said, I am on [an] H1-B visa and my clock to leave [the] USA has started today. I am reaching out to all Metamates, connections, [and] LinkedIn community to help me find a job in [sic] otherwise I have to leave [the] USA with my kids. I have been in [the] USA for 16 years and have seen 2008, 2015 (oil), 2020 downturns but never lost my job. My 2 sons (Arjun – superman, Yash -Chicken) are US citizens, and their lives will be impacted. I will do whatever in my power to give them [the] best opportunity to succeed in [the] USA. Hence, I need a new job in [the] USA ASAP.
It’s unclear whether Kadam was able to find employment within the US since being laid off by Meta. Lupe Canaviri Maydana also told her story on LinkedIn after being laid off during a wave of layoffs happening at Microsoft during the first few months of 2023.
Last week I was affected by the 10000 layoffs happening at #Microsoft, it’s been a lot of things to process, and this change hit me with a lot of questions, which in the next months I will have to figure it out, things like:
Lupe ended the post on a somewhat uplifting note:
So here we go, can I get another job in the next 30 days? 60 days? I’ll keep you posted
Sushant Arora spoke to the Wall Street Journal, Tech News Briefing podcast regarding his losing a job as a Data Analyst in January 2023.
It was a trauma for me, at least for a week, so I was so depressed, and it’s very hard to believe you are not part of the company. And in addition to that, you have bills to pay, right? You have rent to pay. I’m working with two to three companies right now. I told them, “Can you please expedite my process because I don’t have much time. If you take more time, then I have to leave the country.” I’m doing more than 100 applications a day. Try to do that and try to enhance my skills so that I can crack the interview. So I’ve invested like three to four grand in my furniture. And this month, I bought a new car. That is for $60,000. So in 60 days, I can’t sell my furniture. In 60 days, I can’t sell my car and pay the bank debts. It’s very difficult to do that.
Arora would share harsh feelings regarding his situation, saying he won’t want to come back to the United States if he is forced to leave.
Definitely, I won’t do that because I don’t want to be in the same cycle. Or else, if I want to live in another country, then I’ll find an immigration-friendly country.
Alisha Acharya is a Technical Program Manager who was a part of the February 2023 layoffs at Microsoft also took to LinkedIn to post about her experience:
I was impacted by the recent round of layoffs at Microsoft. It took me a few days to come to terms with this news but I am back to the grind now. Since I am on H1b [sic], the clock’s ticking and I have a limited time to look for a job. Please reach out to me if you have any opportunities
Acharya ended the post with an uplifting note for those also going through a similar situation:
Lastly, anyone in a similar situation, my heart goes out to you. Take care of yourself. Hang in there and this too shall pass.
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