Help! I was taking an H1B and they fired me!
It’s pretty clear that the economy is bad and only a few holdouts deny it at the moment. So what do you do when you have an H1B visa and are fired? Well, first of all, don’t panic. You likely have a visa that lasts for years at the moment, so illegal presence is NOT increasing even though you ARE out of state. What does that mean? Well, simply putting too much illegal presence means that you will not be allowed to return to the US for many years. Specifically, 180 days to 365 days of unlawful presence means that you will be barred from entering the US for three years should you leave and attempt to return. Anything over one year results in a 10-year bar for re-entry if you leave the United States.
But I am out of status, so I am increasing the illegal presence, right?
Not at all. The date on your I-94 rules your world. So if you still have time on your I-94 then you will not increase unlawful presence until that date has passed.
GREAT! I’ll stay!
Well the bad news is that you are deportable since you are out of status, so that’s a very bad idea! Also, you cannot change your status to any other state once you are fired, as you are no longer in valid nonimmigrant status. That means you will have to leave if you try to change your status.
Then what do I do ??
I can’t answer that question for you. However, I can say that you are not supposed to be here (and I would never recommend that it violates any immigration laws), BUT if you quickly find a suitable new H1B visa sponsor, YOU MAY get lucky and the USCIS MAY allow you to change employers without leave. It certainly has happened before and possibly getting fired is not your fault and you and your new employer shouldn’t be punished for being fired. In other words, you shouldn’t have to spend the money to get out of the US, get your new H1B, and then get back in, costing you and your employer time and money. The likely worst-case scenario in this case is that the USCIS issues you an H1B but forces you to leave to have your new visa stamped. But you will have to find a suitable job and ask for mercy from one of the most ruthless agencies in the United States!