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Options for Nonimmigrant Workers Following Termination of Employment

On December 19, 2022, USCIS published a new resource containing options available for nonimmigrant workers who have lost their employment, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Below is a review of options provided by USCIS, that may be available for nonimmigrant workers seeking to remain in the United States in a period of authorized stay following termination.

60-Day Grace Period

Regulations permit a discretionary grace period that allows workers in E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B,
H-1B1, L-1, O-1, or TN classifications (and their dependents) to be considered as having maintained status following the cessation of employment for up to 60 consecutive calendar days or until the end of the authorized validity period, whichever is shorter (See 8 CFR 214.1(l)(2)).

During this period, workers may be able to maintain their nonimmigrant status if a new employer timely files a petition on their behalf with an extension of stay request (e.g., an H-1B change of employer petition for a worker in H-1B status).

Alternatively, workers may be able to remain in the United States for a period of authorized stay if they promptly file an application to change to a new nonimmigrant status (such as B-2 visitor nonimmigrant status) or an application for adjustment of status, if eligible.

Workers who are unable to promptly file a change of status application or find a new employer who promptly files a change of employer petition for the worker may be required to depart the United States at the end of this grace period.

Portability to a New Employer

H-1B Portability rules permit workers currently in H-1B status to begin working for a new employer as soon as the employer accordingly files a new H-1B petition with USCIS, without waiting for the petition to be approved.

Also, a worker with an adjustment of status application (Form I-485) that has been pending for at least 180 days with an underlying valid immigrant visa petition (Form I-140) can transfer the underlying immigrant visa petition to a new offer of employment in the same or similar occupational classification with the same or a new employer. This is commonly referred to as “porting.”

Change of Status

Workers may use the up to 60-day discretionary grace period to apply to change their nonimmigrant status, which may include changing status to become the dependent of a spouse (e.g., H-4, L-2). Some individuals in a dependent nonimmigrant status may be eligible for employment authorization incident to status, including spouses of E-1, E-2, E-3, or L-1 nonimmigrants. In addition, some spouses of H1B workers may be eligible for work employment authorization if certain requirements are met.

Other possible nonimmigrant options include student status (F-1) or visitor status (B-1 or B-2). Note that, by statute, B-1 and B-2 nonimmigrant visitors are specifically precluded from “performing skilled or unskilled labor” in the United States. Certain F-1 students, by regulation, may engage in limited employment.

Potential pathways for noncitizen STEM professionals can be found on our options for Noncitizens STEM professionals to work in the United States page.

Note: The timely filing of a non-frivolous application to change status will toll, or stop, the accrual of unlawful presence until the application is adjudicated. For example, if an individual files a non-frivolous application to change status before the end of the applicant’s 60-day grace period, they will not accrue unlawful presence while the application remains pending even after the 60-day grace period has elapsed. If the application is ultimately approved, then the individual’s status is changed and is considered to have been in a period of authorized presence the entire time the application was pending. If the application is denied, then the individual starts to accrue unlawful presence the day after the denial decision.

Change of Status and Employer

Workers may use the up to 60-day discretionary grace period to seek a new employer-sponsored nonimmigrant status in the same or different status. For example, depending on the specific facts presented, an L-1 worker may be eligible for new employment under the TN, E-3, or H-1B1 classifications. The timely filing of a non-frivolous change of status application will prevent the accrual of unlawful presence until the application is adjudicated (see above). Such a filing alone will not, however, confer employment authorization in the new position during the pendency of the application, and will not extend employment authorization if the original classification is no longer valid. Some petitions may be eligible for Premium Processing for an additional fee.

Adjustment of Status

Some workers may be eligible to file a self-petitioned immigrant visa petition concurrently with an adjustment of status application. Examples of immigrant classifications that are eligible for self-petitioning include EB-1 Extraordinary Ability, EB-2 National Interest Waiver, or EB-5 Immigrant Investors. Workers with a pending adjustment application are generally eligible to remain in the United States and obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Period of Authorized Stay – Compelling Circumstances Employment Authorization Document

Workers who are the beneficiary of an approved employment-based immigrant visa petition (Form I-140) may be eligible for a compelling circumstances EAD for up to one year if they:

  • do not have an immigrant visa available to them in the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin, and
  • face compelling circumstances.

Note: A compelling circumstances EAD is a discretionary stopgap measure intended to assist certain individuals on the path to lawful permanent residence by preventing the need to abruptly leave the United States. Workers who begin working on a compelling circumstances EAD will no longer be maintaining nonimmigrant status but generally will be considered to be in a period of authorized stay and will not accrue unlawful presence in the United States while the EAD is valid.

Expedite Criteria

Some circumstances may warrant expedited adjudication, including applications to change status to a dependent status that includes eligibility for employment authorization. For example, an application to change status from H-1B to L-2 may be eligible for expedited adjudication to prevent severe financial loss.

Departure from the United States

Workers may choose to depart the United States. For H-1B and O workers who chose to depart the United States after involuntary cessation of employment, the reasonable costs of transportation to the worker’s last place of foreign residence must be borne by the H-1B employer or by the O employer and O petitioner, as applicable (See 8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)(iii)(E) and 8 CFR 214.2(o)(16)).

Once abroad, H-1B holders may seek U.S. employment and readmission to the United States for any remaining period of their H-1B status. Those seeking another classification for which they may be eligible can complete the application or petition process abroad and seek readmission to the United States.

This article, under no circumstances, acts as legal advice; therefore, for any immigration questions, please contact your Attorney or the Ahluwalia Law Offices, P.C. (Team ALO).

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