If you are a foreign worker in H-1B status who is contemplating quitting your job with a U.S employer, this article will alert you to the possible consequences of quitting and explain how you may remain in lawful status after ending the employment.
If you've lost your job involuntarily, or fear you may, see What Happens If an H-1B Holder Loses Their Job?
H-1B classification is available to foreign workers coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform services for U.S. employers. There are many advantages of H-1B status. However, one possible disadvantage is that your lawful immigration status in the U.S. is dependent upon your fulfillment of the terms and conditions of your approved employment for a U.S. employer.
Once someone ceases to be employed pursuant to H-1B status, they in most situations cease to maintain lawful status in the country, and begin accruing unlawful presence (which eventually leads to becoming inadmissible to the United States). The following are possible consequences of quitting your H-1B employment:
You might have heard that there is a grace period of ten days given to H-1B workers who quit, in order to allow them to wrap up their affairs and leave the country. This grace period is not written into the law, however; it is merely a discretionary USCIS policy, and thus could easily change.
There are multiple ways to remain in lawful immigration status after you quit your H-1B job. Perhaps the best way to is for a second employer to file an I-129 petition on your behalf while you are still working for your original H-1B employer. Once USCIS approves that I-129 petition, you can quit your original job and immediately begin working for your new employer, which ensures no gaps in your status.
Another way to remain in status is to apply for a change of status. Many H-1B workers apply for a change of status from H-1B to F-1 so that they may attend a university in the United States. If you would qualify for another status, such as L-1, or H-4, you can apply to change to one of those, instead.
The most important concept to remember when applying to change your status is that you must demonstrate to USCIS that you were maintaining status up to the point of your application. In the context of H-1B employment, you must provide evidence of your employment, such as pay stubs and timesheets.
The law considers H-1B employment "at-will" employment, meaning you have the right to quit your job (and the employer has the right to terminate you). Additionally, your employer is prohibited from retaliating against you for quitting. However, you are still bound to any employment contract you signed with your employer. Therefore, if your contract contains a penalty for quitting (such as disqualification from severance packages), you will incur this penalty.
Terminating H-1B employment can have serious consequences for someone's present immigration status and future immigration opportunities. There are multiple strategies available that can assist in maintaining status, but your own situation will dictate how you should proceed. It is highly recommended that you consult with an immigration attorney BEFORE quitting your H-1B employment.