How to Help Those on Work Visas Prepare for a Layoff
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This is part two of a two-part series. You can read part one here.
In part one of this series, I discussed how you can help your clients on H-1B and other work visas (L-1, O-1, TN, etc.) get back on their feet if they are laid off.
If your clients still have jobs and haven’t been impacted, this article will discuss what you can do to help them prepare for a possible layoff.
Expect layoffs as a normal part of working in the U.S.
Layoffs are a part of being an American worker. According to Zippia’s layoff statistics:
- In 2022 there were 15.4 million layoffs in the US
- 40% of Americans have been laid off or terminated from a job at least once.
- 61% of adults between 18-34 have layoff anxiety.
- 51% of employees between 18-34 feel unprepared for a layoff.
- Typically, the first to get cut are the newest employees.
The above are serious risk factors for those in the U.S. on work visas. They are most likely new in the country, making them the newest employees.
They may be coming from a country where layoffs are not the norm, and hence are not prepared. Also being new, they may not be prepared for the legal issues that are likely to confront them.
When they start working with you, it’s your duty to walk them through the layoff minefield as practiced in the U.S. and help them be in the best possible position in case they end up on the list.
I’ll assume they want to stay in the U.S., and so they’ll probably be looking to become permanent residents.
Become a student of your client’s visa type alongside them
As I said in the first article, meet with an immigration attorney and ensure your clients learn enough to understand the visa type they are on, its validity, limitations as well as the path to permanent residency.
A common theme is to have a great relationship with an immigration lawyer, similar to what you do with estate planning attorneys.
Have them talk to the lawyer about priority dates based on their countries of origin. In addition, what can they do or not do on their type of visa?
In the meantime, you’ll find great info to get started on different work visas on the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Service (USCIS) website.
Get the green card process started
When most workers start a job, they are concerned about the company’s benefits and getting signed up for them. That is absolutely critical, but even more critical is when the company will start the green-card process for them.
If the company has agreed to petition for them, then have them confirm the exact EB category they’ll use. Some categories are more advantageous than others and, in some cases, the worker can self-petition based on their skill set.
Off course, they should use a knowledgeable immigration lawyer in their corner, one outside the company.
Consider other ways of staying in the country if laid off
The worker typically has 60 days or less to find a solution if laid off, consider other ways that will allow them to stay in the country beyond the 60 days. This assumes they don’t find a new job.
Spousal visa. If the spouse is on a dependent visa like H-4, is it possible for them to get a job on a work visa?
Some dependent visas like L2 allow for work. It may not lead to a green card, but it could help in the financial arena.
Consider other ways of getting permanent residency
Getting a green card via the workplace is not the only way to become a permanent resident. Consider other options.
Green Card Lottery allows over 55,000 people to get their permanent residency. Worth a shot.
Start a business. The New American Fortune 500 2022 report shows that 44% of companies on the Fortune 500 list were founded by immigrants or their children. Entrepreneurship is something immigrants are very comfortable with.
Venture firms like Unshackled are working in this space to help immigrants start their own businesses and sponsor their work visas.
Help them improve their skill sets
Work with them as follows. What will make them more attractive compared to other candidates if competing for the same position, considering they need a new visa sponsor?
Help them identify these skill sets, and then discuss how they’ll go about gaining that new skill set or improving it. And then prioritize it and do it.
It might come down to spending a lot of time and money gaining new skill sets when they first come to the country instead of traveling, but it will be worth it.
Help them prioritize networking by reaching out to others in the industry or joining professional organizations.
Help them with these financial decisions
Spending plan – Prioritize a bucket for career advancement and legal fees.
Emergency fund – Go with a higher number like six to 12 months. It must include enough to buy return tickets for the whole family in case they have to leave suddenly.
Help them defer big money decisions – a They should hold off on big-ticket items until they are very sure about their residency status. They can save for retirement, but I would prefer to see them prioritize spending on legal and career buckets first.
Investments – Keep it simple. Prioritize investing in a taxable account before other accounts like 529 or even retirement accounts outside of work. Once you are both sure they are going to be here for the long haul, then you can make other investing decisions.
Tax compliance – Ensure they stay tax compliant by reporting overseas accounts, reporting gifts received from overseas and other items that pertain to being a U.S. tax resident with overseas financial ties.
With the above, you’ll be a hero to your clients in the U.S. on work visas!
A version of this article directed to the clients/prospects can be found here.
I have created a page with resources for those on H-1B, TN, L-1, O-1, E3, and other work visas based on the questions I get.
Jane Mepham, CFP® is the founder of Elgon Financial Advisors, a registered investment advisor based in Austin, Texas. Her advisory practice is limited to providing investment and financial planning advice to foreign-born individuals. She works directly with these individuals and has flexible relationships with investment advisors serving this community who require her specialized knowledge.