FILIPINO workers seeking jobs in the United States under the federal H-2A and H-2B programmes will no longer be allowed to do so after the United States Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) the imposed a one-year ban.
On Jan 18, the department issued a notice banning the entry of additional Filipino workers under the two visas due to “overstaying” and “human trafficking” concerns.
The ban, which took effect from Jan 19, 2019, will last until Jan 18, 2020.
The H-2A and H2-B visas were temporary work passes given to foreign agricultural workers and foreign workers providing non-agricultural services in the US.
“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.
The department also pointed out that the US Embassy in Manila issued “the greatest number of T-derivative visas” among all US posts in the world, adding T-derivative visas are reserved for certain family members of principal T-1 non-immigrants.
It said some were found to be victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons.
“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 and the potential that continued H-2B visa issuance may encourage or serve as an avenue for future human trafficking from the Philippines,” the DHS said.
The removal of the H-2A programme was due to “severe” overstay and trafficking concerns, the department noted, pointed out the four-fold increase in applications over the past four years.
“The Philippines’ continued inclusion creates the potential for abuse, fraud, and other harm to the integrity of the H-2A or H-2B visa programs,” it noted.
Apart from Filipino workers, the department imposed the same ban on Ethiopia and the Dominican Republic.
However, the status of workers who currently hold H-2A or H-2B non-immigrant status were not affected.
“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,” the department said.