U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that Austria, Italy, Panama and Thailand would be added to the list of countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B visa programs in 2014. The additions join the 59 approved countries from 2013, making 63 countries eligible to participate in the programs. The announcement was published Jan. 17, 2014, in the Federal Register.
The H-2A and H-2B visa programs allow U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural and nonagricultural jobs, respectively. USCIS may approve H-2A and H-2B petitions for nationals of only those countries that are designated as eligible. The designation expires after one year and must be renewed. With this announcement, nationals of Austria, Italy, Panama and Thailand are eligible to apply for and receive H-2A and H-2B visas for the first time.
In order to be included on the list, USCIS takes into account several factors including:
- The country’s cooperation with respect to issuance of travel documents for citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents of that country who are subject to a final order of removal from the U.S.
- The number of orders of removal executed against citizens, subjects, nationals and residents of that country.
In 2009, 28 countries were designated as eligible to participate in the visa programs. Eleven countries were added to the list in 2010, 15 in 2011, five in 2012 and one in 2013. Indonesia was removed from the list during that time.
Nationals of the following 63 countries are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B visa programs: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Nauru, The Netherlands, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, The Philippines, Poland, Romania, Samoa, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Tonga, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Vanuatu.
The notice does not affect those who currently are in H-2A or H-2B status unless they apply to change or extend their status.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him at @SHRMRoy
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