Over 200,000 H-1B workers in US could lose legal status by June

The coronavirus pandemic is creating a situation where many H-1B workers will lose jobs and potentially have to leave the U.S. even before their status was scheduled to expire.

A foreign worker with an H-1B visa can stay in the U.S. for a maximum of six years (plus extensions in certain circumstances, discussed below). The H-1B visa and status is initially valid for three years and can then be extended for another three years. At the expiration of the maximum period of stay, the foreign worker must either leave the U.S. or obtain a different status (such as an F-1 student or O-1 “extraordinary ability” worker). After spending a full year abroad, a new six-year clock begins.

  • As many as 250,000 guest workers seeking a green card in the US—about 200,000 of them on H-1B visas—could lose their legal status by the end of June, according to Jeremy Neufeld, an immigration policy analyst with the Washington DC-based think tank Niskanen Center.
  • Thousands more who are not seeking resident status may also be forced to return home

For majority of foreign workers, a stable future in the US suddenly seems distant.

When one’s H-1B status expires, the H-1B worker must either leave the United States, obtain an extension of the visa, or apply for a different status. If the worker simply stays in the U.S. past the expiration of the H-1B status, the worker loses legal status in the U.S. and can be removed (deported).

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