The dragging economy has been tough on immigrants. An overabundance of citizens looking for work limits the number of some types of visas, and instability in the job market limits the appeal of employment-backed visas. Many workers who have lost their jobs because of the economic slowdown have had to leave the United States in order to avoid violating the law and jeopardizing their ability to live in this country in the future. However, some immigrant workers are finding ways to stay in the United States legally despite being laid off.
- Find another job. This is somewhat easier said than done, but workers who are able to find new employment can often extend their visa or get a new visa. This works best if the worker knows in advance that his or her current job will soon be ending and can find a new job to start before the old job ends.
There is technically no grace period in which to find a new job when a worker’s job ends (meaning a worker is out of status as soon as they clock out for the last time), but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) often approves petitions to change from one employer to the next if the gap between jobs is 30 days or less.
If a worker is out of work, and thus out of status, for more than 30 days, he or she will probably have to leave the country and get a new visa at a United States consulate office before starting a new job.
If a worker does have to travel abroad to get a new visa, the worker’s former employer may be required to pay for the worker’s trip home. Whether the employer is required to pay depends on when and how the worker’s job was terminated.
- Become a dependent. If a worker in the United States on an employment-backed visa loses his or her job, one of the easiest ways to stay in status and prevent deportation is to become the dependent of someone who has legal status. Obviously, this only works if family circumstances allow.
It is important to note that if, for any reason, the worker's family member loses his or her legal status, then the worker who has become that person's dependent will lose his or her status as well.
- Go to school. Workers who lose their jobs may have their status changed to student (F-1 status) if they are accepted into a full-time program at a college or university.
The further in advance a worker knows his or her job is in jeopardy, the easier it is to find a solution that will allow him or her to stay in the country legally. However, it is never too late to contact an experienced immigration attorney.