Indian H-1B Visa Holders In US Face Layoffs As Coronavirus Topples Economy

Bansari Kamdar
Representative image.

Boston, Massachusetts — Divyanshu Pandey, a Duke University graduate, received his H-1B sponsorship in September 2019, and was working as a business operations analyst at a tech and rental industry startup in Dallas, Texas, when he was laid off a week ago due to the sudden economic slowdown prompted by the global novel coronavirus pandemic. 

“As hard as it is for me, if I was in the company’s position, I would do the same,” said Pandey, whose company was in the middle of a Series A funding round when the pandemic hit America. 

Since early March, unemployment claims in the United States have jumped by a whopping 3,000%. In just the last week, 6.6 million people have filed for unemployment benefits, according to data released by the country’s Bureau of Labour Statistics. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman predicts that unemployment could rise further to a record-breaking 20% in the next two weeks. 

As the US economy slows, H-1B visa holders — three fourths of whom are Indian — are faced with the prospect of losing their jobs and health insurance amidst a raging pandemic. As of date, the United States has the largest number of coronavirus cases in the world, with over 360,000 confirmed infections and almost 11,000 deaths according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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The laid-off workers, who will no longer be able to access the health insurance provided by their employers, now have just 60 days to find a similar full-time job or leave the country.   

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