Lay-offs at Twitter – Impact on Immigration Status of Foreign Employees

By Zeenat Phophalia Immigration Attorney, D&A

In a move that sent shockwaves, Twitter laid off half of its workforce on Friday, November 4, according to a Reuter’s report.  Hundreds of these employees who are in H-1B, L-1 or O-1 status would be put on a deadline to get another job or leave the country.  As reported by Forbes, an estimated 8% of Twitter’s employees are on an H-1B visa, based on a National Foundation for American Policy analysis of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data.

The L-1, H-1B and O-1 visa each have a different set of rules.  For the H-1B, the rules provide a 60-day grace period after termination and during this grace period, it’s important that the employee has either: another employer to file the H-1B, switches status to another non-immigrant visa category (F-1, B-1, H-4) or leaves the US.  In the absence of the occurrence of any of these, the person would be deemed to have violated his immigration status upon exceeding the grace period.

Generally, H-1B employees are able to have their employment petition transferred from one employer to another.  That’s no so in the case of L-1 intra company transferee employees; they typically have a more difficult time in situations of termination and lay-offs, often resulting in them having to leave the country. An L-1 employee’s employment is premised on a qualifying relationship between the US employer and its related foreign entity abroad as well as the employee’s prior qualifying employment at the foreign entity abroad.  Hence, L-1 employment cannot be transferred to another employer, unlike the H-1B.

Employers are required to notify the USCIS upon termination of an H-1B employee and are liable for reasonable costs of the employee’s return transportation (if the employment is terminated prior to the end of the authorized period).

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