Work Visa? How To Prepare For A Possible Layoff

In today’s post, I discuss how to prepare for a layoff if on a work visa.

How to prepare for a possible layoff on work visa

The recent tech layoffs have made a lot of folks on works visas like H-1B, TN, L-1, O-1, etc., very jittery.

Unfortunately, layoffs have become the norm, and everybody needs to prepare for that eventuality.

If on a work visa, the goal is to avoid having to scramble at the last minute with only 60 days to find another job.

I’m assuming you would like to stay in the country as a permanent resident.

If so, here are some things you can do to prepare and be in the best possible position.

Become a Student of Your Visa Type

Being prepared for a possible layoff means having a complete understanding of your visa situation. 

Understand what type of visa you have, its validity, limitations, etc., and the path to permanent residency if that’s your goal.

I get that you have other things to worry about and become familiar with in the US, but this needs to be at the top of your list.

For example, with the H-1B visa, there are different types of permanent visa categories you can use to get your green card, some more advantageous than others. You want to know what those are.

Understand how long the visas are valid. For example, the H-1B visa is valid for 3 years and can be renewed for another 3.

L-1 is good for 3 years and can be extended to 7.

Understand, priority dates based on your country of origin, as well as how long each green card stage takes, and what the premium processing entails. You want to be armed with all this information when you finally talk to the legal folks.

Here are some green card stats, you’ll find interesting.

Get Your Green Card Process Started In Preparation

Preparing for a layoff on a work visa means having a way to stay in the country after the event.

A lot of companies are willing to file for your permanent residency and usually will let you know during the interview process. Once you start the job, the priority quickly shifts to benefits (good) and being productive.

If your company has agreed to file for you, you must find out from them exactly when they plan to start the process and get a firm deadline commitment. Make filing a priority. 

If they start dragging their feet or won’t commit, it’s okay to find another employer willing to get the process started asap.

Get Your Green Card Filed Under the Best Category

Typically, companies have different immigration attorneys that they use. Before they start the process, have a conversation with them, and find out exactly how they intend to file the green card for you, and which EB category they plan to use.

Some categories like EB-2 are advantageous and, in some cases, you can petition for yourself based on your skill set.

Because each stage takes a while, a lot of immigration lawyers advocate for getting this started ASAP.

Consult With an Outside Attorney

Company lawyers are more likely to favor the employer, so I always recommend having your lawyer.

They are great especially when you are doing the initial legwork and want to understand what you need to know, and the correct questions to ask. It will cost money – I address this later.

If you decide to self-petition under the EB-2 NIW category, you want a great attorney on your side.

Just like when looking for a financial advisor, it’s worth interviewing a couple while you have the time to evaluate them.

Can Your Spouse Get a Work Visa?

If your spouse is on a dependent visa, consider having them find a job on an H-1B visa if possible. I meet a lot of families, where both spouses are highly qualified, but one came in on a dependent visa.

If they get a job, it will mitigate having to leave the country in 60 days if the primary visa holder gets laid off.

Consider Other Ways of Getting Your Permanent Residency

Apply for the Green Card Lottery. Every year about 55,000 people get their residency this way. If married, have your spouse apply as well, increasing your chances of winning.

Start a business. Companies like Unshackled are looking to invest in immigrants on all kinds of visas allowing them to start their ventures. A word of caution – tread lightly here and consult an attorney.

Improve Your Skill Sets

One way to recession-proof your financial future is to invest in yourself. You want to make yourself attractive to future employers and give yourself more options if you get laid off.

Anytime you are looking for a new job, you are competing with tens if not hundreds of other candidates. How do you set yourself apart?

Short courses can help a lot, but longer-term studies like a master’s program can also be advantageous.

The education component can be extended to the dependent spouse. Have them pursue courses that make them attractive to employers now or in the future.

Keep your resume updated.

Network, Network, Network

This is the best time to network and get your name out.

Join professional organizations in your industry and volunteer to help out where you can.

Find people who can be mentors and learn from them. Find out what leadership and technical skill set you need to become a leader in your industry.

If it means switching jobs for a better trajectory – do it.

Financial Decisions – To Prepare For A Layoff On A Work Visa

  • Spending Plan – Have a bucket for career advancements and legal fees. The attorney fees are not always cheap, but a good immigration lawyer is worth their fees. Make it a priority.

  • Emergency Fund – Maintain a 6 to 12-month emergency fund in a high-yield online savings account, easily accessible. This is higher than typical, but if you do have to leave the country, you’ll be glad to have this money.

  • Defer Big Money Decisions – Hold off buying a house, until you have the green card process started and further along. Hold off on major financial commitments in the US, that require your permanent status.

  • Investments – Prioritize investing in a taxable account outside of work. I have discussed the importance of a taxable account for foreign-born families, and this is a perfect use case.

  • Tax Compliance – Ensure you are staying compliant, especially if you have overseas accounts to avoid financial penalties.

With the above steps, you’ll be well-prepared to calmly deal with the situation if you are on a work visa, and you are impacted.

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Disclaimer:  This article is provided for general information and illustration purposes only. Nothing contained in the material constitutes tax advice, a recommendation for the purchase or sale of any security, investment advisory services, or legal advice. I encourage you to consult a financial planner, accountant, and/or legal counsel for advice specific to your situation. Reproduction of this material is prohibited without written permission from Jane Mepham and all rights are reserved. Read the full disclaimer here.

Jane Mepham, CFP® is a Fee-Only financial planner who loves simplifying the complexities of the U.S. financial system for immigrants and foreign nationals on work visas and those in tech. She’ll work with you to map out a personal strategy that addresses all areas of your financial life while avoiding key financial mistakes that could derail your American dream.

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