Eligible Countries for H-2A and H-2B Visas Program

United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) recently published its updated list of designated countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B visa  programs. 

H-2A visa and H-2B visa programs allow U.S employers who meet specific requirements to bring foreign nationals to fill temporary agricultural and non-agricultural jobs respectively. Generally, only nationals from countries that have been designated by DHS (Department of Homeland Security) may be beneficiaries of these visas.

In determining what country is eligible to be added to the designated list of countries, DHS 1`will consider various factors including: 

  • “The country’s cooperation with issuing travel documents for citizens, subjects, nationals and residents of that country who are subject to a final order of removal;
  • The number of final and unexecuted (meaning completed but not yet carried out) orders of removal against citizens, subjects, nationals and residents of that country;
  • The number of orders of removal executed against citizens, subjects, nationals and residents of that country; and
  • Other factors as may serve the U.S. interest.”

DHS may also remove a previously designated country if the country is found to be no longer eligible. A designated country may become ineligible as a result of fraud, abuse, human trafficking concerns, denial rates, overstay rates, etc.

The following changes were made to the list of designated countries for the H-2A and H-2B visa categories. Mozambique and Samoa were added to the list of eligible countries for both visa categories. Paraguay was added to the list of eligible countries for the H-2A visa category only. Ethiopia and the Philippines were deemed no longer eligible and removed from the list for both H-2A and H-2B visa categories. Dominican Republic was deemed no longer eligible for H-2B visa category. DHS cited “overstay rate” and “at risk for noncompliance” as its reasoning for removing these countries from the eligible list.

Big name African countries including Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Cameroon, Egypt, South Africa, are not included on either list for H-2A or H-2B visa category.

USCIS maintains that nationals from countries not on the list may be granted these visa types on a case by case basis if doing so will be in the interest of the United States. Further, the updated list does not affect the status of beneficiaries who currently are in the United States in H-2A or H-2B status unless they apply to change or extend their status. Each country’s designation is valid for one year from January 19, 2019. 

Visit USCIS page for a complete list of eligible countries.

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