What can a foreigner do on being fired in the US?

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Postposted on Wed Mar 27, 2002 1:57 pm

Let me start off by asking what I want to ask. What options for re-employment does an H-1B status worker have? How long can he stay in the US while looking for a job? And are background checks for merit done by all employers, or is there some possibility for reemployment for someone who has bad references from a former employer?

Now, the details, which have to be few for personal reasons. I'm an H-1B worker with a four-year degree from a reputable US university. I'm a software developer, and started working for a corporation about a year ago - my first job after graduation. Suffice it to say that things aren't going well, and I may be fired at any time over the next three months, with next week being a strong possibility, for performance reasons. Let me mention that my manager has been very fair, and I'm wholly to blame for this. I suspect that any references I get out of him will be poor, and since any future employer will want to know what I did last, he will be able to do a background check and figure out how poorly I've done at this job.

So, what should I do if/when I'm fired? What is the job market like these days for H-1B workers, especially considering that the recession has caused a lot of US workers' jobs to be lost, so there's a lot more competition from the citizenry, which makes H-1B workers a last-resort choice? And even if employment is plausible, would it be feasible for me to be employed, given my background of poor performance?

It's entirely feasible for me to work abroad or in my home country, but for personal reasons (primarily those of personal development), I'd like to avoid that if possible. Money is also not a problem in the short term - with the money I've saved and can raise from sales of stuff, I might be able to tide over a period of six to seven months of unemployment, but I may be required to leave the country well before then. Does any H-1B worker have knowledge about what the immigration rules are when a worker loses his job?

So, does anyone have any advice for this good-for-nothing foreigner? :sad:
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Postposted on Wed Mar 27, 2002 3:50 pm

I'm not sure how it works in the software industry, but in the financial industry (where I've worked since 1987), most HR departments are so afraid of defending lawsuits over poor references that the only information given is dates worked. So, to me, the potential of a poor reference is a far smaller problem than your upcoming INS problems. I don't know this for a fact, but I believe that your H1-B visa is specific to your current employer. To move to another employer, that employer must file an H1-B application and be approved before you go to work for them. If you do any work for anyone else in the meantime, you can be deported. For more details, see:

http://www.ins.gov/graphics/howdoi/h1b.htm

I hope it all works out for you.
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Postposted on Wed Mar 27, 2002 4:06 pm

My best advice for you is to start looking for work right now. Most employers don't go into detail about the terms of separation, out of fear of litigation. So if you are let go, be honest about it, but try to put a positive spin on it. While you're at your current job, ask trusted coworkers if they would be a reference for you. If they ask, just tell them you're thinking of leaving, and leave it at that. If you do get fired, ask your boss if he/she will give you a letter of reference. It's worth a try. Lots of people get fired, for a variety of reasons. References will go far to mitigate the firing.

Since 9/11 you may find it hard to keep your status once fired. OTOH you might slip through the cracks. Either way it's easier to get a job if you have a job. That's why it's critical that you act now, and work on backup plans.

If worse comes to worse and the INS says "pack your bags", do what they say. If you leave on good terms with INS, you're a lot better off than you would be as a fugitive, even if you did get another job.
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Postposted on Wed Mar 27, 2002 4:46 pm

At the former company I worked for we had many H1-B workers that were laid off when I was. Most of these people had CS degree's. Some found work and that entailed that the company that was doing the hiring applied for the transfer of the H1-B to them which is painless and effortless. However, those who did not find work as someone who was from India that I worked closely with found themselves having to go back to India a start the cycle all over again.

From what I understand most H1-B's here in Atlanta, now when they set foot on U.S. soil they begin the application for citizenship or dual citizenship (which could take a long time).

There was a article in the Atlanta paper about three months ago that coverd the H1-B personnel in the post SEP 11 job market. The overall sense of the article was grim and that most H1-B's were sent home. But there is a silver lining in the fact that they can transfer companies easily but it must be done quickly.

BTW i worked for a PC support and netwrok admin company.


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<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: tanker27 on 2002-03-27 15:48 ]</font>
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Postposted on Wed Mar 27, 2002 4:54 pm

My wife had the exact same problem -- she was on an H1B when she was fired. Here's what we learned:

1. You have 10 days after your date of fire to be hired by a new company AND have them start the application to transfer your H1B to them (which costs them several thousand $$, so you can't just get some tiny company to do it for you).

2. If you exceed the 10 days, you're accruing 'bad time'. I think it's 120 days of 'bad time' in a two-year period (I could be wrong) that is the limit before serious stuff starts happening. During this "bad time", as long as you don't leave the country, you shouldn't have problems (we were fine during this period, and got married before 120 days had passed from when she was fired... fortunately we had planned the wedding some time before). If you exceed this limit, though, then the INS can and will deport you, and you will not be allowed back in the US for several years.

3. If you have the cash, look for a good, reputable lawyer. Really. This INS stuff gets really nasty really quick. We've had a ton of problems already, and the INS can pretty much just say "OUT!" with NO CAUSE at ANY TIME with NO APPEAL. That's the power they have in the US over immigrants. It sucks. It really sucks. A good lawyer can help counsel you on what to do in your situation.

Good luck.

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