US Banning Filipinos From Applying For Seasonal Work Visas

Filipino workers face a one-year ban from applying for the United States’ H-2A and H-2B visas.

US Work Visa Bans Filipinos for One Year

The United States Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) released a notice barring Filipinos from applying for certain US work visas starting January 19, 2019, to January 18, 2020.

What are H-2A and H-2B Visas?

H-2A Visa holders are agricultural workers granted a visa to perform seasonal work in the US.

H-2B Visa holders fall under the category of non-agricultural seasonal workers in the US. Nurses or those working under Health Care, and in the Hospitality and Tourism industry are most often the ones granted this visa.

(Read: A First-Time OFW’s Guide: Things You Should Never Forget Before You Board Your Flight)

Why the one-year ban?

Other countries that were announced to be considered no longer eligible for US work visas are the Dominican Republic, with a ban on H-2B only, and Ethiopia.

The USDHS has seen a huge rise of overstaying Filipino H-2B workers. In the Fiscal Year of 2017 alone, the “DHS estimated that nearly 40 percent of H-2B visa holders from the Philippines overstayed their period of authorized stay,” a number they found alarming and no longer adhering to the regulatory standards of the DHS.

Human trafficking was also raised as one of the biggest factors that led to this year-long ban. “Human 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.”

These overstay and human trafficking concerns are severe enough to warrant removal from the H-2A visa program as well,” as posted by the DHS.

H-2A and H-2B Ban Coverage

Filipinos already holding either an H-2A or H-2B visa will not be affected in this year-long ban, unless they file for the following visa adjustments within the period of suspension.

“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 H-2 classification, or;
  • A change of status from one H-2 status to another.

As posted by the DHS.

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Special Cases for ‘H’ Type Visa Application

There are also some special instances where the US Embassy may still grant Filipino workers an H-2A or H-2B visa, as posted:

“The [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] USCIS, however, may allow a national from a country that is not on the list to be named as a beneficiary of an H-2A or H-2B petition based on a determination that such participation is in the U.S. interest.

Determination of such U.S. interest will take into account factors, including but not limited to:

(1) Evidence from the petitioner demonstrating that a worker with the required skills is not available either from among U.S. workers or from among foreign workers from a country currently on the list described in 8 CFR 214.2 (h)(5)(i)(F)(1)(i) (H-2A nonimmigrants) or 214.2(h)(6)(1)(E)(1) (H-2B nonimmigrants), as applicable;

(2) evidence that the beneficiary has been admitted to the United States previously in H-2A or H-2B status;

(3) the potential for abuse, fraud, or other harm to the integrity of the H-2A or H-2B visa program through the potential admission of a beneficiary from a country not currently on the list; and

(4) such other factors as may serve the U.S. interest.

This will, of course, all depend on the documents and evidences a Filipino work visa applicant will show to the US embassy consul. It’s worth noting that the US embassy fee of USD190 or P10,260 to apply for an ‘H’ Visa Type application schedule remains non-refundable.

Source: US, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, Federal