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What if you lost your job and only had 60 days to find another? This is the situation in which thousands of highly skilled immigrant workers have suddenly found themselves.
About 50,000 tech workers lost their jobs last month as Meta, Amazon, Twitter and others laid off some of their workforces.
And a large part of this workforce is made up of immigrants. A 2018 report found that more than 70% of Silicon Valley tech workers were born in another country.
Losing a job is always devastating, but for many immigrant workers on an H-1B (skilled worker) visa, their ability to stay in the United States is suddenly on a ruthless clock.
When the clock is ticking
Aditya Tawde knows exactly what that looks like.
In 2020, Tawde was working at a tech company near Boston. Things were going well. He liked the job and had just been promoted. But COVID and the lockdown hit his employer hard.
The company called a virtual all-staff meeting (offices were closed) and Tawde had a bad feeling. Almost immediately, the CEO confirmed his worst fears.
“He said they were making the decision to let people go,” Tawde recalled. “And everyone who was terminated would be emailed within an hour.”
Tawde didn’t move from his computer. He barely blinked. He just sat there refreshing his email over and over, telling himself he would be fine.
He had just been promoted and he was working in data analysis, which was highly valued by the company.
Fifteen minutes passed, then 20. Nothing. But then, all of a sudden, there it was. The email.
A ticking clock
“I don’t remember the subject line,” says Tawde, “but I do remember him starting by saying, ‘If you get this email, it means you’re one of 1,000 employees who are laid off and these are the next steps you need to take.”
Tawde was in shock. “I had a very shaky voice when I said that to my wife,” he recalls. “I then went to the bathroom and cried.”
Tawde and his wife are from India, but had been in the United States for five years. Their life was in the United States
He is in the United States on an H-1B visa. Tech companies use these visas a lot to find workers they say they can’t find in the United States.
The H-1B visa ties a worker to a particular job. If a worker loses his job, a countdown starts.
It is happening. I have two months.
Tawde sat down in the bathroom to collect himself. He took some time to vent his emotions, then immediately began to formulate a plan.
“I was like, ‘It’s happening. I’m two months old.'”
People who lose their jobs on an H-1B visa have 60 days to lock in a new job or they must leave the country.
Right now, it is likely that thousands of H-1B visa holders are facing this same countdown.
Many have kids in school, mortgage payments, and have lived in the United States for years.
It’s surprising that they were fired
Joshua Browder is the CEO of Do Not Pay, an AI-powered legal services startup (or as they call it, “the world’s first robot lawyer”). Browder says that as a business executive, it’s always been difficult to find talent.
Browder always had to pay recruiters to find people, and even then he often lost out to bigger, wealthier companies.
So after hearing the news of Meta’s 11,000 layoffs, Browder tweeted a quick note.
If you were recently laid off and hold an H1B visa, we’d love to talk to you @not paying.
25% of our team are non-US citizens and we can act quickly.
We have never laid off anyone in our 7 year company history and we don’t plan on that.
—Joshua Browder (@jbrowder1) November 22, 2022
Browder was hoping to recruit some really high-level people who had been laid off. He had a few vacancies and was happy to help another immigrant.
“We’ve had hundreds of people contact us,” Browder says. “They are some of the top designers, engineers with incredible portfolios and it’s very surprising that they were fired.”
Hiring slows during holiday season
Browder has already made an offer and forwarded many applications to other companies he knows who are hiring.
Browder is an immigrant himself and says H-1B workers are in a very tough spot right now: There’s a flood of tech workers out there and lots of hiring freezes.
It’s also holiday season, when many places stop hiring or at least slow things down.
Also, many places will hire a US citizen rather than an H-1B worker. It’s cheaper and there’s less paperwork.
What if a question decided my future?
Aditya Tawde faced a lot of this himself when he was fired in 2020. He started reaching out to everyone he could think of: former colleagues, mentors and former classmates.
Every application, every interview, every answer to every question was disastrous.
“There was a lot of thinking,” he recalls, “because I was like, ‘What if I answered a question wrong and that’s what decides my future in the United States?
Just six weeks after being fired, Tawde had done 35 interviews, sometimes five a day.
He says it was blurry. He kept pushing, updating the spreadsheet, analyzing the questions. And then one day out of the blue, it happened.
“I received an e-mail saying that I had been selected.”
Tawde says it was surreal. “I burst out laughing in tears,” he recalls. “Like one email changed my life, then this other changed my trajectory again with a new job.”
A calm sea never makes a good sailor
Right now, Tawde is doing everything he can to help other H-1B holders: sifting through applications, posting available jobs, connecting contacts.
He says he always tells people what someone told him in 2020, someone who did exactly his job and managed to get a job.
“There’s one thing he said, which has always stuck with me: ‘Calm seas never make a good sailor. Once you get through this experience, you’ll come out of it stronger. If something difficult happens in your life, you will be able to deal with it.'”
Tawde tells people to keep pushing. He tells them he now has a job he loves at LinkedIn. He tells them that he was also on that brutal clock and got a job with only 15 days to spare.
#Find #job #days