While the current recession has caused millions of workers to lose their jobs, it has had an outsize impact on nonimmigrant workers. The ability of nonimmigrants to stay in the United States is often contingent on their employment. Without it, they could lose their legal status. Yet, certain nonimmigrant workers have a limited window to find a different employer to sponsor their nonimmigrant status, and thus remain in the country.
Understanding the 60-day grace period
Until January 2017, certain nonimmigrants workers who lost their jobs lost their legal status along with it. This change in status complicated the ability of many nonimmigrants to transfer their nonimmigrant status to new employers. Yet, laws effective since January 2017 give certain high-skilled nonimmigrant workers 60 days to find an employer willing to sponsor their visa. This grace period allows them the opportunity to secure employment and remain in the country if the new employer timely files a petition for a change of employer or change of status with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The 60-day grace period happens only once during each validity period. Nonimmigrant workers who find an employer to sponsor their visa, though, will receive an additional 60-day grace period if their new position ends in termination. This rule applies to all subsequent validity periods as well.
Limitations of the 60-day grace period
During the 60-day grace period, nonimmigrant workers are not authorized to engage in employment. With limited exceptions, the nonimmigrant cannot begin new employment until the petition with USCIS is approved. If a nonimmigrant worker is struggling to find a job, they may apply for a change of status during the grace period. Nonimmigrant workers, though, must remain in the United States during the grace period and until the request for a change of employer or change of status is approved by USCIS. Without a valid visa, they will have difficulty departing and reentering the country.
The end of a nonimmigrant worker’s validity period may happen before their grace period ends. If so, this date becomes the grace period’s end as well.