Due to high volume of overstays and human trafficking cases
By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – Starting this year, Filipinos may no longer be allowed to work in the US as temporary guest workers with H-2A and H-2B visas, after the Department of Homeland Security took notice of the high cases of human trafficking from the Philippines.
The delisting makes the Philippines ineligible for the H-2A and H-2B visa program of the US starting this year, said the Federal Register published on January 18, 2019.
The DHS determination, which was concurred by the Department of State, has excluded the Philippines from participating in the nonimmigrant worker programs, for two reasons: high overstaying of work visas and human trafficking cases.
The H2A and B visa program covers temporary low-skilled agricultural and non-agricultural nonimmigrant workers. Thousands of temporary guest workers are deployed in agricultural farms, resort and hospitality services, retail sales, landscaping, food service and processing, and construction using the H-2A and H-2B programs. The US government caps the yearly importation of H-2B at 66,000 while the H-2A agricultural worker visa has no annual cap.
Aside from the Philippines, the Dominican Republic and Ethiopia were taken out of the list “because they no longer met the regulatory standards set by the department,” making only 79 countries eligible for the nonimmigrant worker programs of the US.
The Philippines was dislodged from the H 2A and H2B eligible list because it has a high H-2B overstay rate. In fiscal year 2017, the DHS estimated that almost 40 percent of H-2B visa holders overstayed their period of authorized stay.
The US Embassy in Manila also has the highest recorded issuances of T visa derivatives (families of trafficked victims) at approximately 60 percent, from 2014-2016.
According to the Federal Register, the DHS and the DOS “are concerned about the high volume of human trafficking 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 in the Philippines.”
The DHS has taken cognizance of the four-fold increase in H-2A visa applications between 2015 and 2018. “The continued inclusion creates potential for abuse, fraud, and other harm to the integrity of H-2A or H-2B programs,” the Federal Register said.
According to Susan Pineda, Virginia-based immigration specialist on human trafficking, the DHS delisting is a welcome development because it will curb labor contracting agencies and recruiters of their exploitative schemes on Filipino migrant workers.