New Filipino workers banned from entering US with H-2A, H-2B visas

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By Dona Magsino/GMA News – Filipino citizens may not seek employment in the United States with temporary visas for foreign agricultural and non-agricultural workers between January 19, 2019 to January 18, 2020, a notice from the Department of Homeland Security has shown.

The DHS, in its notice posted in the Federal Register, banned the entry of additional Filipino workers with H2-A and H2-B visas due to “severe” overstaying and human trafficking concerns.

“The Philippines has a high H-2B overstay rate. In FY 2017, DHS estimated that nearly 40 percent of H-2B visa holders from the Philippines overstayed their period of authorized stay,” the DHS notice read.

H-2A visas are temporary visas for foreign agricultural workers while H2-B visas are issued to foreign workers providing non-agricultural services in the US.

The DHS also cited the US Embassy in Manila for recording the highest issuance of T-derivative visas.

T-derivative visas are reserved for certain family members of principal T-1 non-immigrants or certain victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons, the DHS said/

“DHS and DOS (Department of State) are concerned about the high volume of trafficking victims from the Philippines who were originally issued H-2B visas,” the notice signed by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen further stated.

H-2A visa applications have also increased significantly among Filipino nationals from 2015 to 2018.

The continued issuance of H-2B, as well as H-2A visas to Filipinos, was therefore considered a potential means that may be used to perpetuate human trafficking from the Philippines.

Aside from the Philippines, Ethiopia and the Dominican Republic were also removed from the list of countries eligible for the said visa programs.

Current H-2A and H-2B visa holders

The notice assured that foreigners who currently hold valid H-2A or H-2B non-immigrant status will not be affected yet.

“Persons currently holding such status, however, will be affected by this notice should they seek an extension of stay in H-2 classification, or a change of status from one H-2 status to another,” the DHS said.

Nationals from the three countries that were removed from the 2019 eligibility list “may still be beneficiaries of approved H-2A and H-2B petitions upon the request of the petitioner” but will be vetted by authorities on a case-by-case basis. —

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