The high number of layoffs in the tech industry is alarming to say the least. Since the past year, giant and even medium sized companies have laid off a large amount of employees. Three days ago, Microsoft laid off 10,000 employees and a day ago, Google laid off 12,000 employees. This is equivalent to 6% of their total number of employees.
The bloodbath in the tech industry is not peculiar to Microsoft and Google. In 2022, Twitter laid off about 3700 employees (which was more than half of its employees) after a change in leadership. In the same year, Cisco laid off about 4000 of its employees while DoorDash laid off 1250 of their employees.
With the Pandemic and recession, there has been a lot of uncertainty and instability in the different job sectors. Particularly, in the tech industry. Even with the mass layoffs in several companies in 2022, it appears that there is more to come. On January 4th 2023, Salesforce’s CEO Marc Benioff also announced that the company would be laying off 7000 employees.
In trying times like these, employees on OPT or H1B have it the worst. Most people on OPT are international students who recently graduated from a college in the United States. While those on H1B work visas are also international students who won the work visa lottery. They then transitioned from OPT to H1B. The OPT is an optional practical training program which allow international students that graduated from a US college to legally work for a year. It is an employment authorization document (EAD Card).
The STEM OPT is a 2 year continuation of the one year OPT program, specific to students who only studied a STEM program. Usually, international students have to find a company willing to sponsor their H1B work visa while they are on OPT. Several companies automatically reject international students even when they are qualified for the job. This is because these companies do not sponsor the H1B work Visa.
Now, even when they finally find a company willing to sponsor the H1B work visa, many are not guaranteed of getting the work visa. The H1B is a lottery and not every employee who is sponsored is able to get it.
After their one year OPT (for non-STEM majors) or 3 year OPT (for stem majors), students would have to change their status (to a work visa or a green card) or leave the country. There are other immigration constraints on international students (such as E-Verify) apart from the aforementioned.
Therefore in mass layoffs like this, international students (OPT holders) or international workers (H1B holders) are in a volcanic position. When on a work visa, you are expected to just — work. Therefore when you lose your job on a H1B work visa, you have 60 days to find a new job or leave the country. Anyone who has searched for employment is aware that 60 days is not enough to find a job. Not just any job, but a job in whatever major you studied (so if you studied computer science you cannot have a marketing position). In addition, it also has to be in a company willing to sponsor you.
This is indeed a trying time for international students. They not only have to worry about money, but also about keeping their jobs. And in times of layoffs, finding a new job in 60 days.