DHS Strips H-2 Visa Eligibility from Three Countries

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer January 24, 2019
DHS Strips H-2 Visa Eligibility from Three Countries

​Citizens of the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia and the Philippines will no longer be eligible to come to the U.S. under certain temporary work visas because those countries are failing to meet program standards, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced.

Citizens from Ethiopia and the Philippines will not be eligible for either of the short-term work visas, and individuals from the Dominican Republic will be eligible only for H-2A visas.

On the other hand, Mozambique and Samoa will be added to the list of countries eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B visa programs for agricultural and seasonal low-skilled workers, the DHS said. Paraguay will be added to the list of countries whose citizens are eligible for H-2A visas.

There are 84 approved countries eligible to participate in the H-2A program and 81 countries eligible for the H-2B visa in 2019.

The eligibility designation expires after one year and must be renewed. The notice does not affect workers currently in H-2A or H-2B status unless they apply to change or extend their status.

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The DHS considers several factors when deciding which countries to put on the list, including the country's cooperation in receiving its citizens who are subject to a final order of removal from the U.S., and the number of orders of removal executed against nationals of that country.

Reasons to remove a country from the list include fraud, abuse, visa denial rates, overstay rates, human trafficking concerns, and noncompliance with H-2A and H-2B terms and conditions by nationals of that country, as well as evidence of economic impact on U.S. industries or regions resulting from the inclusion or exclusion of specific countries.

Penalized for Overstays, Human Trafficking

The DHS estimated that nearly 30 percent of H-2B visa holders from the Dominican Republic overstayed their visas in fiscal year (FY) 2017. In comparison, less than 10 percent of H-2A visa holders from the island nation overstayed their period of authorized stay during that time.

"This high H-2B visa overstay rate demonstrates an unacceptable potential for abuse, fraud or other harm to the integrity of the H-2B visa program, and thus continued eligibility for H-2B visas does not serve the U.S. interest," the DHS said.

The Philippines also has a high H-2B overstay rate—nearly 40 percent in FY 2017. Additionally, the country has a high incidence of H-2B workers trafficked to the U. S.

"DHS is concerned about the high volume of trafficking victims from the Philippines who were originally issued H-2B visas and the potential that continued H-2B visa issuance may encourage or serve as an avenue for future human trafficking from the Philippines," the agency said. The overstay and human trafficking concerns were severe enough to warrant removal from the H-2A visa program as well. There has been a fourfold increase in the number of H-2A applicants from the Philippines from fiscal years 2015 through 2018.

Ethiopia has been removed from eligibility after it was determined that the country's government has failed to sufficiently cooperate with issuing travel documents to its nationals who face a final order of removal from the U.S.

Samoa, which was removed from the list in 2018, has since "demonstrated increased cooperation with the United States regarding the return of their nationals with final orders of removal," the DHS said. Mozambique and Paraguay were added for eligibility because of those countries' low overstay rates and because it was determined that workers from the countries will benefit from relevant work experience in the U. S.

2019 List of H-2 Eligible Countries

Nationals of the following countries are eligible to participate in both the H-2A and H-2B visa programs through 2019: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Nauru, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Vanuatu.

In addition, the Dominican Republic, Moldova and Paraguay are on only the list of H-2A eligible nations.



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