Although the economy has hit all employees hard, Reductions-in-Force (RIFs) have a disproportionate affect on H-1B employees. When an H-1B employee is terminated from employment, that employee must deal with not only the financial difficulties of a layoff, but the additional complexity of losing authorized status in the United States as of the day of the termination. Even if the individual were to find employment subsequent to the termination, there are many issues in switching employers legally.
Anytime an employer terminates the employment of an H-1B worker, the employer is liable for reasonable costs of return transportation abroad. Moreover, the employer should withdraw immediately its H-1B petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”), to avoid “front” and “back” pay obligations. The petition, however, may be automatically revoked if the employer goes out of business.
If a new employer wishes to hire an H-1B individual terminated by a previous employer, the new employer should keep in mind that the individual may need to return to his home country to obtain an H-1B visa if employment has ended prior to the filing of the new employer’s application and his beginning new employment. The Immigration regulations do not provide a grace period from the time the individual ceases employment until the new petition has been filed to find a new position and sponsoring company.
Other major changes in employment, such as location, duties, or level of responsibility, may require the filing of an amended H-1B petition. While a corporate reorganization may not trigger a duty to amend the petition with the USCIS, this must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis.
Understanding the immigration implications for H-1B workers that may be part of a RIF or other corporate change can make all the difference in mitigating both financial and personal issues for employers, H-1B employees and their dependant family members.