MANILA - The United States Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) has imposed a one-year ban on Filipino workers seeking jobs across the US under the federal H-2A and H-2B programs.
In a Jan. 18 notice posted on its Federal Register, the DHS banned the entry of additional Filipino workers with H2-A and H2-B visas due to overstaying and human trafficking concerns.
The one-year ban is effective from Jan. 19, 2019, to Jan. 18, 2020.
H-2A visas are temporary visas for foreign agricultural workers while the H2-B visas are given to 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 per cent of H-2B visa holders from the Philippines overstayed their period of authorised stay," the DHS notice read.
It noted that among all US posts in the world, the US Embassy Manila "issues the greatest number 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 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.
It added that these overstay and human trafficking concerns were "severe enough" to warrant the removal of the H-2A visa programme as well, citing Filipinos' four-fold increase in H-2A visa applications between 2015 and 2018.
"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.
The DHS also imposed the same ban on Ethiopia and the Dominican Republic.
The notice, however, does not affect the status of aliens who currently hold H-2A or H-2B non-immigrant status.
"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," DHS said.