Hundreds of laid-off Meta employees on US work visas are in a panic after failing to get responses from a dedicated email hotline set up by the company to guide them. Many are worried by the fact that if they don’t get a new job soon, they will be required to leave the US. Others who happened to be traveling abroad when the layoffs hit are no longer sure whether they can return to their homes here.
“There’s no support. There’s radio silence,” one former Meta employee on a visa, who emailed the hotline three times after being laid off, told BuzzFeed News. (BuzzFeed News granted anonymity to the former Meta workers who spoke for this story.)
Meta cut more than 11,000 employees — 13% of its workforce — on Wednesday, the first time that the company has undertaken large-scale layoffs in its 18-year history. Tech companies in the US like Meta heavily rely on work visas to hire thousands of people, largely from countries like India and China, each year. But US law requires workers holding some visas to find new employers or leave the country within 60 days if they lose their jobs.
In an email to employees announcing the layoffs, CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised immigration support to people on visas. “We have dedicated immigration specialists to help guide you based on what you and your family need,” he wrote. But axed employees said they were unaware of who these “immigration specialists” are.
“Even though publicly they have been stating they’re providing immigration support, that’s complete bogus,” said a laid-off employee on a visa. “There’s no way we can get a job in 60 days this close to the holiday season.”
Dave Arnold, a Meta spokesperson, told BuzzFeed News that the company was “working to respond to inquiries we've received, and we'll be in touch with all impacted employees who've contacted the hotline to provide individualized support in the coming days.”
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Affected workers have created a WhatsApp group, which had more than 300 members at the time of publishing, to share concerns in the absence of responses from Meta. Most people in the group are from India, but there are a handful of people from other countries. Thousands of former employees are also congregating in Slack and Discord groups where channels dedicated to those who are on visas are “very active,” one former employee told BuzzFeed News.
“Has anyone got response from immigration or peeps yet,” wrote one employee in a screenshot from the WhatsApp group seen by BuzzFeed News. (“Peeps” is a reference to Meta’s People Operations team, the company’s HR department.) The message received a thumbs-down reaction from another person in the group.
Meanwhile, some former employees appear to have hired, or are scrambling to hire, outside immigration lawyers on their own. “If meta immigration is not responding we can hire independent immigration lawyer for quick answers instead of waiting,” one employee wrote in the WhatsApp group.
Some of the worst-hit workers are the ones who happened to be outside the country when the layoffs were announced, rendering their work visas invalid and effectively barring their return to the US. “I have no idea what to do,” a US-based Meta employee who was laid off while visiting India for the first time in two years told BuzzFeed News.
Others who are still in the US but had plans to travel abroad are desperately seeking advice.
“Anyone traveling from India in the next few days to the US during this situation please do share your experience,” one ex-employee wrote on WhatsApp.
“I have emailed [Meta’s] immigration team for guidance,” wrote another former employee who was scheduled to travel abroad next week. “Waiting for their response.”
Multiple people in the group who already had lawyers said that they were being advised not to leave the US at this time. “[My lawyer] told me that if I still want to go that’s my wish,” one former Meta worker wrote. “But it is risky at this time because if anyone [at immigration] asks me if I still work at Meta, [I] have to tell them the truth.”
Another ex-employee, who also hired their own immigration lawyer after failing to get a response from Meta, is rethinking traveling to India for their own upcoming wedding. “[My lawyer] said I shouldn’t travel, and if I do, I should not re-enter [the US] unless I get [a new employer],” they wrote.
On Thursday afternoon, the former employee who spoke of Meta’s “radio silence” described the WhatsApp group as “crazy active.” But with no communication or guidance about immigration from their former employer after nearly 36 hours, the mood, they told BuzzFeed News, was “somber.”
“People are getting angrier by the minute,” they said.
Correction: The amount of time that Meta did not communicate with its former employees about immigration was misstated in a previous version of this story.