For foreign workers on H-1B visas, getting laid off can spell disaster. : The Indicator from Planet Money Many sectors of the American economy depend on foreign nationals holding H-1B work visas for valuable skilled labor. But if a H-1B visa holder gets laid off, they're on their own.

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The precarity of the H-1B work visa

The precarity of the H-1B work visa

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David Ryder/Getty Images
SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 14: A U.S. flag flies at the Amazon.com Inc. headquarters on November 14, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. Large scale layoffs are expected at the tech giant this week.
David Ryder/Getty Images

In the United States, thousands of skilled foreign workers with H-1B work visas contribute vital work to the economy. These visas are highly competitive: workers have to find an employer willing to sponsor their visa, and typically only about one in five applicants make it through the lottery to receive one. But H-1B visas also come with a key caveat: if a H-1B visa holder gets laid off, they have just 60 days to find a new job and a willing employer to sponsor their visa. If they can't, they have to leave the United States.

Today on the show, we talk to a H-1B visa holder who's been through this process twice — and we uncover some of the problems with the H-1B system along the way.

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For sponsor-free episodes of The Indicator from Planet Money, subscribe to Planet Money+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org.