Coronavirus and H1B visa worries

By Yishi Chakrabarty

The traditional H1B visa is difficult and expensive to obtain. It is also the primary avenue for US employers to recruit graduate-level workers in specialty positions.

There are about 300,000 H1B visa holders in the US. With close to 10 million unemployment claims and rising in the country, layoffs are expected to be more rampant by the hour.

The Rush for E3 Visa

Ireland, in the meanwhile, is pushing to secure US Senate Approval for Irish inclusion in the E3 Visa Bill, originally resolved for Australian citizens.

The E3 Visa is a safer and far more certain way of bypassing the H1B Visa conundrum. The E3 Visa is a two-year renewable work visa granted to Australian employees in the US. It allows them to live there with their spouses.

H1B Visa Woes

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Emerging news predicts the possibility of up to 90,000 H1B Visa holders being forced to leave the US. The situation is indeed grim for some employees in the IT sector, software engineering sector and certain divisions under the healthcare sector.

Employers in such unfortunately-affected companies have been forced to notify their workers of the company’s status as high-risk for layoffs, consequently affecting visa statuses.

However, employees from industries other than the aforementioned have reported relatively more security in terms of their retention.

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Although nothing is certain at a time when their citizens are facing staggering scales of unemployment, these workers have not yet received the dreaded warning from their administrations.

Visa Holders Speak

The Assistant Vice President of a major American multinational investment banking company in New York details her experiences surrounding visa worries.

“My employer is trying their best to get all kinds of information from me after the President tweeted about filing an executive order to suspend all kinds of immigration. As of now, I’m still hoping that things will eventually work out. My visa is up for renewal this year. We are working on my application right now. So yeah, it did make me anxious hearing stuff come up in the news but my employer assured me then that it was going to be okay and there has not been an official statement made about any potential catastrophe as of yet.”

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She also talks about how the pandemic has not affected her life as much as it has affected her husband’s who works as a project finance analyst at a prominent European bank, at which reporting to work, in-person, is one of the prime responsibilities.

“For me, there has not been a huge change work-wise because my duties can be effectively carried out virtually. Personally, however, it has changed a lot for me because my husband and I are always together now. I have another person sitting next to me all the time in the same bedroom because we live in a one-bedroom apartment.”

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Sanhita Sinharay, a research instructor at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, said “The visa processing times have already shot up so it is a bad sign to start. My personal view is that it would be more difficult to lay off ‘skilled’ workers with a valid visa because they would prove to be highly productive at this point. But my point-of-view could be skewed as well. For now, such matters of uncertainty are only subject to time.”

However, she mentioned that a lot of her anxiety was eased when her supervisor formally clarified the Presidential tweet to be understood, for the time being, to only apply to individuals seeking to enter the US during this time and not to visa holders currently residing within.    

No one is sure though, about how the far-reaching effects of a catastrophic economic failure of this magnitude would come to bear on them in the future. “For now, I just want to remain positive about this as much as possible,” Dr Sinharay concluded.

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