Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

Dear Sophie,

I was laid off and I’m on an H-1B. I have enough savings to survive for a while. What should I do if I have been let go from my job? I am on an H-1B, have an approved I-140 and an I-797 that expires in March 2024.

If I have to leave the U.S., can my current I-797 be transferred to my next employer? Are there any issues I should be aware of?

— Upended & Unemployed

Dear Upended,

I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been laid off and for the stress this has no doubt added to your life! Your questions are top of mind in light of the thousands of others being laid off from Twitter, Facebook, Stripe, Brex, Lyft and other tech companies.

I realize this can be an incredibly stressful time. It is my personal life mission to help immigrants have peace of mind, including being able to stay in the United States, keep their families safe and build their dreams of making the world a better place. I am so happy to have the opportunity to share my advice through this column!

When individuals who need visa sponsorship get laid off, we often hear their highest priority is to maintain their ability to stay in the United States beyond the 60-day grace period, especially if they own a home, have a spouse or have dependent kids in school. Often people ask me what they need to do if they can’t get a job that offers visa sponsorship within the 60-day grace period or how they can finally follow their heart to explore their own startup ideas.

Here are my recommendations for how to stay in the United States, as well as options and opportunities you should keep in mind.

Put all of your efforts into finding another job. Get as many interviews as you can. Reach out to everyone in your network — friends, family, former colleagues, co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances. Take advantage of social media and attend networking events. Also, take a look at where venture capital is flowing these days; companies that are receiving Series A funding or above are likely hiring.

At a job interview, be direct about your need to transfer your H-1B to a new employer. If the company is not willing to sponsor you, move on. Ideally, you should accept a job offer no more than 45 days into your 60-day grace period unless you have applied for another fallback status because it can take several weeks to prepare and file the H-1B transfer.

If you want to create your own tech venture, find someone you can work with to be your co-founder. Find out if you qualify for an O-1A ASAP or determine if you want to set up your startup to be compatible with an H-1B transfer. Talk with both an immigration attorney and a corporate attorney to devise the best structure for your startup and determine an immigration strategy for your startup to sponsor you for a visa.

Have a backup plan and work with an immigration attorney to assess your options. You could transfer your H-1B, become an H-4 dependent visa holder if your spouse has an H-1B or change your status to an O-1A visa.

Since you have an approved I-140 green card petition, there are various opportunities to both preserve your green card process and also transfer it to another company or formulate it as a self-petition so you are no longer dependent on any particular company for your green card and permanent residence in the U.S.

The good news is that you will retain your green card priority date and it can be used on another EB-1, EB-2 or EB-3 I-140 petition! Your priority date is the date that either:

While you’re waiting for job interviews and job offers, make sure you assemble all the documents you will need to provide to your new employer for your H-1B transfer. This includes:

If you’re planning on pursuing an O-1A, start gathering letters of recommendation and evidence that you meet at least three of the eight O-1A requirements, such as:

If you’re working for a new company, ask your new employer to initiate the Labor Condition Application (LCA) process ASAP. Submitting an LCA to the U.S. Department of Labor for approval is the first step in getting your H-1B transferred. The Labor Department usually takes seven to 10 days to process an LCA. The approved LCA will need to be included with the H-1B petition that your new employer will submit to USCIS on your behalf.

Your new employer can request premium processing for an H-1B application, which means USCIS will either issue a request for evidence or make a decision on your case within 15 days. Premium processing is also available for O-1A applications.

You can begin working for your new employer as soon as USCIS receives your H-1B or O-1A application and issues a Form I-797 receipt notice. As long as the I-129 for either the H-1B or O-1A is filed on or before the 60th day of your grace period, you’re allowed to remain in the U.S. while waiting for USCIS to make a decision. That means your stay will extend past the 60-day grace period!

All my best,

Sophie

Dear Sophie: How can I stay in the US if I’ve been laid off? by Annie Saunders originally published on TechCrunch

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