Massive Tech Layoffs Negatively Impact H1-B Visa Workers and Immigration

By: Talia Cabrera

At the beginning of 2023, no one would have expected that the U.S. tech sector would be in the headlines for laying off thousands of tech workers. Tech giants like Google, Meta, Disney, and Microsoft were faced to deal with the consequences of inflation and potential recession after the pandemic. Even Amazon was not free from the wave of layoffs after their profits increased 220 percent during the first year of the pandemic. Collectively, the U.S. tech sector has laid off more than 150,000 workers. So why are we seeing tech companies layoff their workers? Rapid hiring because of fast growth without a care in the world about the implications of a workers life, especially H-1B visa holders.

Though layoffs are meant to alleviate the financial burden companies are left to deal with, they unfortunately disrupt a worker’s life with just a simple email. Workers who no longer have a career are now left to start over and find a new job during a time when companies are freezing hiring. Though these layoffs have had a negative impact on thousands of people, one group of workers is left in a unique position: US immigrants holding an H-1B visa.

The H-1B visa is a work visa that allows U.S. employers to sponsor a foreign worker to work in the U.S. for a specific period of time. These “specialized skill” visas are heavily used by large tech companies and have contributed to their success. For example, in 2021, Amazon was approved for over 4,800 H-1B visas, Miscroft was approved for 1,200 H-1B visas, and Apple had over 1,000. Yet, the recent wave of tech layoffs has shown us the lack of support H-1B visa holders have when the unexpected happens. Once an H-1B visa holder is told that they no longer have a job, they have to face the harsh reality of a limited time period to find a new job. If an H-1B visa is unable to find a new employer within a 60-day window, they may be forced to leave the United States and return to their home country.

But the reality is that many of these visa holders have built a life in the United States for years and are now facing the uncertainty of being deported. These visa holders have invested time and resources in their careers in the U.S. and many of them have built a family and community. Now, the post-pandemic economy is highlighting how this system needs to be updated. In the recent economic climate, the hiring freeze is leaving visa holders concerned about their future in the United States, especially now having to compete in an already competitive work sector.

So what needs to change? There need to be more resources in place to help H-1B visa workers during layoffs. Tech companies have invested millions of dollars into lobbying for visa workers to invest in innovation so they need to make sure they support them in their transition period. Now, tech companies should facilitate a smooth transition or risk losing future generations of skilled workers. Maybe tech companies need to lobby for workers to extend the 60-day window or keep them as sponsors until a new company can sponsor that so they can continue working for citizenship. If tech companies want to use H-1B visa holders then they need to not take advantage of them and leave them left with nothing.

The recent wave of tech layoffs in 2023 has had a significant impact on many workers and has highlighted the lack of support for tech workers. Employers and policymakers need to stop using greed as a motivating factor for innovation and instead make sure their workers are taken care of. But until then, we will see big tech companies concerned about making money without a care in the world.

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