Fri. Jun 9th, 2023

After thousands of Indians working on temporary visas in the US lost their jobs in recent tech layoffs, their peers have come together to help them find work and stay in the country. California-based journalist Savita Patel reports.
Amit (name changed on request), a software engineer, was recently laid off from Twitter, but he says he's already given a few job interviews and has even received a "reference for a good role".
He says this is partly because of the efforts of his peers in the industry, who are helping laid off tech workers like him find jobs by tapping into their own professional networks.
"Hiring managers and engineers on LinkedIn I'd never contacted before have been sharing my profile in their companies and this has helped me get a few interviews," he says.
Amit is among hundreds of laid off tech workers who are benefitting from the support groups that have sprung up online and offline following mass layoffs at major tech firms in the US.
In the past couple of months, firms like Meta, Twitter and Amazon have shed thousands of staff amid growing concerns about an economic downturn. Among those impacted are Indians working on H1-B visas – a non-immigrant visa that allows firms to employ foreigners for up to six years – who are now forced to find a job within 60 days or leave.
Fellow tech employees in the US, who are familiar with the uncertainty an H1-B visa brings, have been rallying together to help their peers find jobs before they are forced to leave. They are sending encouraging messages, flagging job openings and tapping into personal networks to bring immigration lawyers, recruiters and jobseekers onto common platforms to offer solutions.
Vidhi Agrawal and Shruti Anand, who work for tech firms on H1-B visas, have created a database to connect the jobseekers with prospective employers.
"These [the laid-off employees] are among the top tech talent in the world," says Ms Agrawal, who works at the software firm Databricks. "From the resumes we see they're well-educated, super-skilled and making upwards of $250,000 [£203,400]." She adds that several companies, including her own, are open to hire from the available talent pool.
She says that she and Ms Anand have been helping "resumes be seen by the right people" and "fast-tracking referrals and interviews" because they're aware of the tight time-frame for H1-B visa holders.
"Hiring managers understand that this is time-sensitive. I know of people who are being fast-tracked for interviews. Going through multiple rounds of interviews in a company within a month is unheard of," she says.
"Vidhi's efforts have directly resulted in me getting a reference for a good role," says Amit, who moved to the US six years ago from India.
Amit, who comes from a low-income household in India, says he was good at studies and wanted to reach great heights in his career. "So my family supported my education in the US by taking a huge mortgage. They have sacrificed their dreams and happiness for me to achieve mine and I am forever indebted [to them]. They are completely dependent on me," he says.
His "most important concern" right now is finding a job and the support from fellow professionals is heartening, he adds.
Elsewhere, fellow tech workers are putting together events to help the laid off. In northern California, the IIT Bay Area Alumni Association organised an 'Ask Me Anything' event to help fired workers with questions about visa policies, employee rights and other issues.
The event was organised by Dharmesh Jani, a board member of the association and a senior employee in Meta's infrastructure team, after he noticed employees with H1-B visas raising similar concerns in a WhatsApp group.
"The chatter was significant as people were trying to help each other. To prevent valuable information from getting lost, we got an immigration attorney and human resource professional to join the event," Mr Jani explains.
Experts also offered strategic tips, like how applying for a visitor visa – non-immigrant visas for entering the US temporarily for business – can help an H1-B visa holder get a few extra months to continue their job search; advice on negotiating with employers to extend the last day of employment and suggestions on types of companies that are more likely to hire at the moment.
Some American cities too are eager to attract foreign talent that has become available after the mass layoffs. Abhishek Gutgutia, a Bay Area-based tech worker who launched Zeno – a platform that connects jobseekers with prospective employers – says his project is being actively promoted by the city of St Louis, Missouri, to "grow its metropolitan population by attracting foreign-born talent".
Mr Gutgutia launched Zeno soon after a couple of big tech firms announced mass lay-offs and has seen a lot of interest from tech workers. He recently added some new tools to the platform to help users save funds as finances become critical after a layoff, he says, adding that Zeno offers a "do-it-yourself plus expert support system" to help those on the platform.
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