An Australian man, Neuman Vong is currently stuck on vacation in Melbourne because of a recent layoff. The 39-year-old software engineer told his Director in December of his plans to go on a long vacation to Melbourne for the holidays. What he never imagined however was that he would be laid out of his job and kicked out of the U.S.
The tweet app now owned by Elon Musk had started its first round of layoff in November with survivors left to pledge an "extremely hardcore commitment to the vision." Vong must have thought of the holidays as a perfect break from all of the pressure he had managed to survive in November, hence the vacation.
A couple of weeks later on Dec 17 and he had been fired from his job. The email said that the company had “identified roles within our organizational structure that are no longer necessary”, hence the decision to let him go. Even though his Director had not been left out, he was also fired for the same reasons.
Vong whose role was to manage site traffic at the company had never imagined the company would still let him go after the first round of layoffs which left few people to handle the job in his department. Maybe if he envisaged it, he would have been proactive about getting a new job and visa before his current one stopped serving him.
As a result of the US high-skilled visa condition, Vong will not be permitted to access the USA since he no longer has a job in the country. He is currently stuck overseas and can't return to his home of 13 years. Although the H-1B visas and E-3 visas allow workers 60 days to get a new job or leave the country, it is extremely difficult to land a new job given the growing competition in white-collar or high skills fields.
“Either I get a new job and a visa, and I go back or I don’t.”, Vong tells fast company in an interview with them."
Vong's case is a critical one amongst so many that have happened to foreigners who are beneficiaries of the highly skilled visa system in the USA. In a consultation with Steven Brown, a specialist in nonimmigrant visas and a partner at the law firm Reddy & Neumann, he explained that the 60-day duration after job Loss is particularly included in the "period of stay" regulation which means that it becomes void the moment a non-immigrant visa holder leaves the country.
He said that he always advises clients to travel with a letter from the employee to affirm that their work status in the US is still valid. This could help in cases like Vong's when he has to enter the country again.
Vong made a viral tweet in January about his situation. "I’m technically still employed so my visa should be valid right? I wish", he wrote.
When he consulted an attorney, he was warned that accepting Twitter's advice might not be an ideal decision because there's no clarity provided in the law coupled with the fact that Twitter made sure to go public with Its recent layoff.
“The officer could be like, ‘Well, where’s your badge? Bring up your email. Show that you still have access and that you’re still active.’ And I wouldn’t be able to,” Vong explains.
Speaking on the complexity of his situation, Vang explains how devastating it is to have to leave the US finally if plans to get a job don't work out. He plans to remain in Melbourne where he has the support of his family members until he finds a job. “There’s a safe and proven way to return, and it’s through a new job and visa,” he says.
Neuman Vong's current case once again emphasizes the gray areas in the US high-skilled workers' visa system. What happens to millions of others who lose their job undeservedly?