Reported by financial news site Mint, a number of “industry insiders” estimate that between 30 and 40 percent of IT layoffs affected employees on temporary work status from India. Given the nationwide estimate of 200,000 IT employees impacted directly by layoffs since November, this means potentially 80,000 people now face the task of finding stable work within 60 days before being forced to go back to their countries of origin.
Most of these employees, including a huge swath of tech workers from China, are on non-immigrant work visas like the H-1B, a temporary three-year visa with an option for extension. In 2022, many tech workers and advocates protested the current congressional limits, and lack of oversight, for workers on visas like H-1B, which they say is frequently taken advantage of by in-need tech employers. This follows an industry uproar incited by a 2017 government decision to suspend H-1B visas, as well as an executive order signed by former President Donald Trump that required H-1B visas to be issued to higher-salaried and higher-educated employees, rather than through a lottery system. The foreign labor decisions of the Trump administration had rippling effects on women and spouses, as well, and even incited global protests in countries relying on international work opportunities, like India.
Employees navigating the sudden removal of both their sources of income and immigration status have been relying on networks of people cornered into similar situations. As Mint reported, some are seeking assistance through international organizations like the Global Indian Technology Professionals Association (GITPRO) and the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS), or networking websites for visa workers, like Go Zeno. Others are seeking out informal means to find these necessary jobs, through Google Forms and career sites like LinkedIn, TIME reported in December. Even law groups are stepping up to assist employees in the hunt for visa-eligible work, while many search for immigration alternatives to their H-1B status.
But beyond the impersonal scale of massive layoffs and companies’ revenue goals are the lived realities of those doing skilled work — thousands of real people supporting real families with immediate needs, who are now scrambling to protect their futures.