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I read on https://www.linkedin.com/news/story/h-1b-tech-workers-in-jeopardy-5128833/

H-1B workers who are laid off while outside the U.S. may not re-enter the country — unless they’ve found new employment in the U.S.

If an H-1B worker is laid off while outside the U.S., how quickly are they barred from entering the US? Is the visa cancelled immediately? If so, how?

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    I wonder why this was downvoted. It's a valid question if there is some period in which one can come in to "pick up ones stuff", so to say.
    – gerrit
    Feb 16, 2023 at 7:48
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    @gerrit just a routine serial downvote I believe. Feb 16, 2023 at 7:53
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    @gnasher729 - sensible worker protection in the USA? Come on now ...
    – brhans
    Feb 16, 2023 at 13:00
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    @gnasher729 Do they not have the Internet in the UK to tell someone they're fired? Feb 16, 2023 at 15:42
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    I don't read my personal email on holiday.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 16, 2023 at 18:17

3 Answers 3

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Is the visa cancelled immediately? If so, how?

It doesn't matter whether the visa is cancelled at all. It can't be used because the former employee no longer meets the conditions for admission in H-1B status. This applies to any nonimmigrant status: you need a visa of the correct type (with some exceptions) and you need to meet certain criteria.

The question seems to assume that the former employee could legally return to the US if only it were possible to reach the border before the government manages to cancel the visa, but that is simply not how US immigration law works. A visa is not a license to enter the US. It is permission to travel to a US port of entry and apply to an immigration officer for admission. For the application to succeed, you need to meet the criteria for the status you seek, and with an H-1B visa one of those criteria is to be employed.

Look at any other criterion for admission. Suppose for example that you have a valid visa, perhaps B-2, but your passport has expired, and you haven't yet received a new passport. Your visa has not been cancelled; it is perfectly valid, yet you cannot enter the US. Furthermore, your visa won't be cancelled, and you will be able to use it as soon as you get a new passport.

In fact, the Foreign Affairs Manual says:

Visa Remains Valid: A change in employment does not have an effect on an H-1B employee's currently valid visa. For information on the effect of the new petition on the applicant's unexpired visa, see 9 FAM 402.10-11(A) below.

That section begins

After changing H-1B employers in accordance with USCIS procedures for making such a change, an H-1B visa holder may continue to use their original H-1B visa for entry into the United States.

So, to answer your questions:

how quickly are they barred from entering the US?

They aren't barred from entering the US. They only become ineligible to enter in H-1B status. They can enter in some other status, and they can also restore their eligibility to enter in H-1B status by finding another appropriate job.

Is the visa cancelled immediately?

No.

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H1b visa depends on employment. You cannot enter more than 15 days before the employment starts or after the employment ends. If you're laid off while outside the US and your employment ends - the visa becomes invalid automatically. Whether the employer notifies the USCIS (which then notifies the CBP) or not is a different question, but when you enter with such a visa and claim that you're working for an employer you're no longer working for - you're committing immigration fraud and are risking deportation, bans, and problems with future AOS or naturalization applications.

That said, workers who are laid off are not necessarily terminated on the same day. Many times a notice requirement is statutory (e.g.: for layoffs in California, Washington, New York, and some other States), and many times employers will keep laid off employees technically employed for a while longer while the details of severance and such are sorted out even if they're no longer actively working or allowed on premises or into the corporate networks.

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    You might have to be careful if you receive payment in lieu of notice. (Say the employer would have to give you three months notice. You are still employed for three months after notice is given. But the employer can also lay you off immediately as long as they pay you three months of salary. In that case you are laid off immediately. For local employees this is actually beneficial because they can try to find a new job quickly and get paid twice. For you it's not. )
    – gnasher729
    Feb 16, 2023 at 9:37
  • @gnasher729 at least in California it would still not be instantaneous, due to the final pay rules. I also do not believe in California you can force payment in lieu of notice, but I couldn't find any reference either way. Usually severance is conditioned on "voluntary departure" to avoid the notice requirements, but that allows the employee to negotiate the date.
    – littleadv
    Feb 16, 2023 at 17:57
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    Well, for local employees getting payment in lieu of notice would be beneficial. At least in the UK. You are free to start a new job, and I think there are tax advantages because it is compensation, not salary.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 16, 2023 at 18:22
  • @gnasher729 "compensation, not salary" - what's the distinction? I don't think that would matter for US tax purposes. Why would you not be free to start a new job? Sounds like some specific quirks of the UK labor market.
    – littleadv
    Feb 16, 2023 at 19:36
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To complement littleadv's answer, olender.pro mentions:

The employer bears a duty to notify USCIS immediately upon the termination of an H-1B worker's employment. 8 CFR 214.2(h)(11).

However, I don't know whether the employer may use snail mails to notify USCIS.

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    If you look at 8 CFR 214.2(h)(11) you'll see that it specifies a process for revoking the petition that begins with USCIS receiving the notification and then subsequently notifying the beneficiary of intent to revoke and giving at least 30 days for rebuttal. This concerns the petition only, not the visa, and receipt of the notification by USCIS is one of the less important factors in determining how long it takes to revoke the petition.
    – phoog
    Feb 16, 2023 at 1:54

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