While there is much focus in the media about the termination of U.S. employees and their replacement with workers abroad, there is little discussion about the layoff of foreign employees, currently living in the country. Many of these employees are recruited because of their unique skills and face extreme challenges after a layoff.
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The Origins of the H-1B Visa
Originating from the 1990 Immigration Act, the H-1B visa program was designed to bring workers into the country with specialized skill sets. These workers would compliment, and not replace, current U.S. workers. Visas are generally capped at three years, though there are some exceptions. These visas are capped at 65,000 per year, with an additional 20,000 available for workers who have attained advanced degrees at U.S, institutions.
The Rights of Foreign Workers
While organizations can, and do, utilize the H-1B visa program as intended, there are some who do not. Tech companies, in particular, are known for their use of the visas to bring on employees with science and technology backgrounds, at a time when the number of U.S. employees trained in these fields is low.
While the H-1B visa program was certainly not intended to promote the abuse of foreign workers, some companies are coming under fire for using the visas to save money. This has negative implications for both U.S. and foreign workers. Many foreign workers are paid wages that are below the average for their occupation. This is a major flaw, as it represents abuse of employees and the system by organizations and makes it difficult for Americans with appropriate education and backgrounds to compete for the same positions.
In some cases, workers are threatened with termination of employment if they make reasonable demands or request accommodations of any kind. Since H-1B workers are legally tied to their employers, speaking up is a risk that many are not willing to take. In light of this issue, employers who are using the program legitimately are facing concerns when the need for a layoff presents itself.
Employers who lay off an H-1B worker must not only make the employee aware of the termination, they must also notify the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and offer to pay for the reasonable transportation costs for return home. A Chicago immigration attorney can provide additional information regarding the requirements of employers with H-1B workers.