The rising unemployment in the United States is very daunting for the foreign professionals in the country.
Jobless foreign workers in the country are rushing for temporary visas and seeking advice from immigration attorneys regarding the time they can legally stay in the US while hunting for jobs.
Even some foreigners here on visas or work permits are switching their employers, in fear that an unstable job during a tough time of recession could ultimately pave way for a one-way ticket home or kill their chances of acquiring a green card.
Caron Traub, 38, of South Africa was alarmed after she lost her job as a business development manager for an envelope manufacturer. She has plans for an April wedding in Atlanta to her Canadian fiancé, who has a green card, but now, she fears that it won’t happen as she might be forced to leave the country before then.
Traub, who applied for a temporary visa to stay in the US legally and look for a job, said that the whole situation is very scary.
An undetermined number of foreign workers have been victims of the recession, which pushed to nationwide jobless rate to a fifteen-year high at 6.7 percent in November 2008. Economists expect that there would be continuous rise in the jobless rate through a major part of 2009 and it might even surpass the 8 percent mark.
According to the Labor Department, foreign residents with valid visas that authorize them to work in the US can qualify for jobless benefits if they meet the requirements of the state in which they file their application.
Stuart Anderson, executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy, a policy research group in Arlington, Virginia, said that nearly half-a-million foreign professionals are working in the United States on the H-1B visas, or have applied for green cards with their employers’ support.
Many arrived in the United States in order to pursue graduate degrees and have been living and working here for many years now.
Immigration lawyers say that they are getting an increasing number of calls from foreign professionals who have been terminated from their jobs, many of whom are from the financial services industry.
One of the biggest hurdles for jobless visa holders is the lack of a grace period to leave the country. Companies have to provide a return ticket home for workers, who may try to switch to some other visa, in order to have some time at hand, either to pack their bags or to look for a new job.