Chinese workers in the US are losing their visa But flying home is too expensive.
The Tang comes from East China’s Zhejiang province, but has worked in the US since 2014. Her the H1-B work visa is due to end later this year, so the travel firm where Tang worked as a software developer in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, had begun the difficult process of applying for a green card, which will allow him to live and work in America permanently.
34-year-old was so confident about building a life in America, he also bought an apartment in the US.
but when the Tang was made redundant on March 13, he didn’t just lose her source of income — he lost his visa status. Now her former employer has decided not to proceed with her green card application, your route to permanent residence is lost, too.
when the H-1 B visa holders like Tang lose their job they have 60 days to file a change of status — such as becoming a tourist or student or a new employer willing to sponsor your work visa.
if they can’t find a new job or to change their position, they abandoned, or illegally overstay their visas. If they leave the US after having overstayed for more than 180 days, they can be banned from reentering in the future.
finding a job in the current climate is hard, let alone to find an employer willing to shoulder the extra cost and paperwork of visa sponsorship. Since he was laid off, Tang has not had much luck getting the interview, and is not optimistic about being hired in the middle of an epidemic with a recession looming.
she had resigned herself to going back to China — only to find out that he can’t. There are no seats available on any direct flights in April, and Tang is concerned that cobbling together a multi-stop trip could put her at risk of catching the virus.
“even if I want to go back now, I can’t get a flight ticket,” she said. Instead, he strict to the application of the university to get a student visa that will allow you to remain in the US legally.
No way Back to home
With the epidemic having seemingly turned a corner in mainland China, authorities there have focused their attention on preventing a new wave of infections coming into the country from overseas.
since late March, China’s Aviation Administration cut the number of inbound international flights to 134, under per week, a mere fraction of the pre-epidemic yoga. The dwindling in the number of flights has seen ticket prices soar.
the number of daily travelers including Chinese citizens, entering the country by air has been limited to 4,000.
there are no official figures on how many Chinese citizens in the US have lost jobs as a result of the corona epidemic, but CNN has seen, the two groups on WeChat, a “must-have” messaging platform for the Chinese diaspora, hundreds of people who claim to be in this situation share stories and exchange information.
every day, chat rooms are filled with obvious concern over precarious employment and visa prospects, as laid-off workers and those with visas due to expire soon, discussed potential solutions and offer advice.
“I have never seen so many visa holders losing their jobs,” said Cao Ying, a New York-based immigration lawyer whose clients are mostly Chinese immigrants. “It’s worst than in 2008,” she said, when the global financial crisis due to some 2.6 million job losses .
in March, the CAO received twice as many inquiries as he has a normal month. He advises most clients to file for a change of visa status if their grace period is expiring — maybe to a tourist, student or dependent visa to buy themselves more time.
the Sui Yi, a New York-based immigration lawyer, said that many of her clients are facing the same situation. He also has seen a surge in the panicked call from the Chinese expats in recent weeks.
“(immigration, environment) already was, but this epidemic has inspired . It to an even more serious situation,” Yi said. “A lot of our customers who are here on work visas are extremely concerned.”
‘needlessly endangering the lives’
until now, US officials have done nothing to help those in Tang’s situation.
the H1-B visa is the most common type of employment visa in the US, and some 900,000 were released in the last five years . The visa is tied to a specific employer and is valid for three years, with an option to extend it for the next three years.
in 2019, Chinese citizens accounted for almost 15% of H1-B visas issued, according to the U.S. Department of State .
until now, the US Citizenship and immigration service (USCIS) has not moved to temporarily extend the grace period for work visa holders whose permits can be finished during coronavirus epidemic. The federal agency did not respond to a request for comment.
last month, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) sent a letter to USCIS, calling on it to suspend immigration during the time frame coronavirus emergency. April 3, AILA sued against the USCIS to attempt to maintain the status of non-immigrants of expansion and immigration-related deadlines.
“the USCIS must include many other federal agencies in extending your filing deadline so that lawfully present foreign nationals in the United States can maintain a position during this national crisis,” AILA President Marketa Lindt said in a statement. “By refusing to do so, USCIS needlessly risking life for.”
as they wait to see if they can live in the country, many laid-off Chinese expats are not likely to be applying for unemployment benefits.
according to the official statistics, and more than 10 million American workers applied for unemployment benefits in March. But Yi and Cao, immigration lawyers, both said that figure is unlikely to include visa holders, because many are reluctant to claim benefits as they worry that doing so might mean they are refused a visa in the future.
another issue, said Cao is that even though the work visa holders are eligible for unemployment insurance under the federal immigration laws, they may not meet specific state laws, which require beneficiaries to be readily available for work.
while H-1B holders to be eager to start right away, they need to get their visa transferred to another company before they can do so — a process that could take months, according to Cao.
“it is difficult to imagine any employer can wait that long,” she said.
No more American dream
for Walton Wang, who recently in your internship with a New York cosmetics company, there is yet another layer to their plight.
Wang came to the states for college in 2015. As a member of the LGBT community, he always hoped to stay in the country to prepare, and more open environment for sexual minorities than for China . But Wang changed her mind after seeing the US government to deal with the crisis and growing racial hostility and violence against the House.
“I don’t know if I’ll be the next victim of a hate crime,” Wang said . “I recently have been pondering about which identity is more important to me: being gay or being Asian?”
and he has come to a painful conclusion: “I have been leaning toward selecting Chinese will not recognize because I get beaten up in China is going to.”
“I feel like I have no choice,” Wang said . “And it was really a harsh realization.”
like Tang, though, deciding to go home It does not mean Wang really be able to do it.
he is in the US on a post-graduation grace period which allows her to stay without a work visa for a year. But according to the rules, he can not be out of employment for more than 90 days-and if the epidemic drags on, Wang thinks that he could easily be unemployed for three months.
he started looking at flights in mid-March, but until now been unable to find a route home, due to the low number of flights and increasing prices.
“I have no way of returning to China, and I can’t stay here for long,” Wang said . “I have nowhere to go.”
published on Wed, 09 Apr 2020