For H1B workers in Trump-led world, silver lining of 60-day grace period after job loss

Hidden away in the rubble of Trump’s executive orders pockmarking the immigrant experience in America is a bright spot for H1B workers - they now have a 60 day grace period after a job loss unlike in the earlier rule where they fell 'out of status' immediately and officially had about 2 weeks to clear out of the country.

Not just that, there are other tweaks too that offer relief to the H1B community - two grace periods of up to 10 days prior to the visa validity period for workers to enter the US and prepare to begin employment.

 For H1B workers in Trump-led world, silver lining of 60-day grace period after job loss

US President Donald Trump. File photo. AP

A U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulation specific to ‘highly skilled workers’ went into effect just days before Trump took office and has remained largely unreported in mainstream media because of Trump’s more headline grabbing moves soon after he took charge.

Here are the relevant portions of the copious document by the DHS:
60-day nonimmigrant grace periods. To further enhance job portability, the final rule establishes a grace period of up to 60 consecutive days during each authorized validity period for individuals in the E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, O-1 or TN classifications. This grace period allows high-skilled workers in these classifications, including those whose employment ceases prior to the end of the petition validity period, to more readily pursue new employment should they be eligible for other employer-sponsored nonimmigrant classifications or employment in the same classification with a new employer. The grace period also allows U.S. employers to more easily facilitate changes in employment for existing or newly recruited nonimmigrant workers.”

10-day nonimmigrant grace periods. To promote stability and flexibility for certain high-skilled nonimmigrant workers, the final rule provides two grace periods of up to 10 days, consistent with those already available to individuals in some nonimmigrant classifications, to individuals in the E-1, E-2, E-3, L-1, and TN classifications. The rule allows an initial grace period of up to 10 days prior to the start of an authorized validity period, which provides nonimmigrants in the above classifications a reasonable amount of time to enter the United States and prepare to begin employment in the country. The rule also allows a second grace period of up to 10 days after the end of an authorized validity period, which provides a reasonable amount of time for such nonimmigrants to depart the United States or take other actions to extend, change, or otherwise maintain lawful status.”

The qualification crieria are straightforward: The H1B worker in question must have a valid petition and I-94 card and can potentially apply for a change of employer or change of status during the 60 day grace period. Curbs exist within the document to ensure that people don’t abuse the elbow room - the 60-day grace period will only be available once per authorized validity period of an approved petition.

In this very non-Trumpian document, the DHS has a summary of costs and benefits of the proposed changes and how it achieves the twin objectives of increasing efficiency within the homeland security system and simplifying process for the beneficiaries. Take for example the 10 day grace period - some may claim it’s not enough but the DHS is looking at logical time to market for newbies to find a house, sign the lease and unpack their bags before they report on the job.

This rule draws heavily from the American Competitiveness in the Twenty First Century Act of 2000 and explains the continued need for highly skilled workers. For those of you who’re in the mood for a long read, this is an illuminating document that sounds unlike all the other H1B stories that are swirling in a Trump-led world.

It also reminds us that if we choose to dive into even a recent 20-year history, Republican governments in the US have generally been good for India and Indian workers. The Indo-US nuclear deal and the genesis of the H1B visa, to take just two high-optics examples, are the legacy of a Republican President.

Twitter | @byniknat

Updated Date: Mar 13, 2017 11:00:39 IST