One of the unintended consequences of living in the United States during the Covid-19 pandemic over the past year has been non-immigrants losing their jobs due to layoffs and companies downsizing staffing departments. The shocks of the pandemic have hit the immigrant community particularly hard because if you are working in the United States and are on an employment based visa, you need to maintain your job in order to remain in the U.S. As such, many have the right idea to apply for a green card at some point when it is feasible, that way they can receive green card status and not worry about having to leave the U.S. if they become unemployed.
However, a recent Guardian article highlighted the problem for temporary residents (employment visa holders) perfectly well discussing an unnamed Indian national who lost their job when Covid-19 broke out in the U.S. The piece highlighted that it is too easy for some to lose their jobs, at which point visa holders only have 60 days to find a new job, otherwise they could lose their status they might have worked years to obtain. This blog will be dedicated to better understanding and proposing some security measures and strategies non-citizens should be equipped with if they feel they are on the verge of losing their jobs.
Maintain a Healthy Online Network
The first tip that should be offered to non-citizens is to have some type of social media or professional networking platform that they use regularly. This could be LinkedIn, but it could also be Twitter with the amount of professionals that are on this platform as well. Visa holders should be equipped with a list, or at least a following, of several institutions in their field that might be hiring at any given time. It’s especially important for non-immigrants because of the need to have a job in the U.S.
Interacting with your network means attending webinars and encouraging promising research in your field. It means following pages to get an idea of the types of positions that might be available. Visa holders in general should have a healthy online network that they feel comfortable interacting with if there ever occurred a problem with their current position.
In addition, because of the 60 day grace period, visa holders should be prepared to only apply to jobs that are “urgently hiring”. Some positions take up three months just to receive an acceptance or rejection email. In general, visa holders need to be aware of this landscape should there ever be a problem or lay-off with their organization.
Go in Person
Some cities in the U.S. make it possible (especially on the coasts) for business professionals to easily meet up for coffee or a consultation. Meeting in person also has a different effect and can help impress upon industry leaders that you are a competent and successful candidate. If visa holders who have lost their job are ever in a tight situation and need to find a job in their 60 day grace period, they should absolutely try to meet managers and arrange interviews (or coffee meetings) in person over sending emails. Sometimes the right impression goes a long way and can expedite your application to the top of the list.
Have an Adjustment of Status Plan
Finally, one strategy that non-immigrants should seek and try to understand better is the path to a green card. Unfortunately, it is difficult to adjust your status if you are not on a dual intent visa. However, if you are on a dual intent visa, you should make a plan to adjust your status before your current job or contract expires. This is important because in some fields you might be working on a two or three year project. If you know when this project will end, don’t wait until it is time for your company to decide if they are going to extend your contract or not. This is not a wise gamble. Instead, have a green card application processing. It will be worth paying the $1140 fee instead of potentially having to pay even more to leave the U.S. and uproot your life.
Under U.S. immigration law, any I-485 applicant is perfectly within their right to remain in the U.S. while their green card application is being adjudicated. This process usually takes at least 9 months, so it buys non-citizens plenty of time to explore career options.
The 60 day grace period is in general an extremely limited amount of time to find a new job. That is why visa holders need to have some options (as outlined above) and networks set up as a safety net.