Let’s look at the countries of eligibility for the purpose of h2b visa programs:
In 2015, there was a statistic released wherein 70 percent of the foreign nationals who applied for the h2b visa program were from Mexico.
There are other countries eligible as well, such as the Philippines, Great Britain, Jamaica, and Guatemala, which sent most of the foreign nationals to the United States under the category of h2b visa.
The h2b visa programs bring foreign nationals to the United States for an ad hoc period/as temporary workers to fill and participate in the majority of the non-agricultural jobs.
But this kind of employment is allowed only if the country is on an eligibility list which is maintained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Register.
DHS has given away a notice which gives a detailed overview of countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the process of getting enrolled in the 2a or h2b programs in the current year, 2022.
The list of the countries eligible for h2a or h2b nonimmigrant visa programs is published in a Federal Register Notice by Homeland Security Security Department. A country’s designation as an eligible one remains valid up to a year from publication.
Department of Homeland Security has a unique way of figuring out whether the following countries are eligible countries for the purpose of 2a and h2b visas.
The eligible countries ought to meet the regulations governing the terms of the visa through which the foreign nationals enter the land of the United States and exit the same.
The eligible countries list is also prepared on the basis of whether the foreign nationals from that particular country have come to the US in the past and overstayed their visa permit, which is a violation.
Opportunities for foreign nationals in the United States for 2a and h2b visa-related job opportunities:
For the citizens of multiple countries, there are tremendous opportunities in the United States. A handful number of jobs lack US workers, and then foreign nationals come into the picture to provide for such jobs requiring temporary work. Those foreign nationals get eligible for h 2b immigrant visa.
At times to overcome the unavailability of US workers for job employment, the United States refers to such visa programs to bring foreign nationals to boost their economy.
Not only does it pave the way for job opportunities for foreigners, but it also helps the state to tackle labor shortage without affecting the employment perspectives and futures of their own U.S workers, thereby creating a win-win situation.
The foreign nationals who arrive in the United States temporarily as non-agricultural workers fill those positions wherein US workers are low in number.
What is the number of h2b visa that is available per year?
The total number of h 2b visas, approved yearly, is 66,000 by the US government, for which the cycle starts from October 1st to September 30th, which is also the US fiscal year. The immigration services basically divide the fiscal year into two halves.
This is done so that half of the visas can be passed in the initial six months’ time, and the remaining can be issued after that.
The increasing demand for 2a and h2b visas is ever-increasing, and certainly, the annual quota is not enough to meet the same.
Hence, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) often announces a supplemental increase; for example, it has declared an additional 20,000 h 2b visas to the pot.
Of these, 6500 are reserved for nationals coming from foreign countries such as Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala (the “Northern Triangle”) and also for nationals of Haiti.
The remaining 13,500 visas can be granted solely to the nationals of the foreign countries who come as h 2b workers to the United States or were granted the privilege of h 2b status during the period of one of the previous three fiscal years at the United States (2019, 2020 or 2021).
Key features of the h2b program
There are a number of pros and cons of h 2b visa. The visa under the h 2b program allows its holders to work legally in the US under h 2b status for short durations of time.
The employer must guarantee payment of wages for at least three-fourths of the contract period, and wages ought to be above the federal, state, or local minimum wage or prevailing wage rate, whichever is highest. The employer must also pay or reimburse workers for transportation and visa costs. Such terms ought to also include the employer providing for workers’ compensation insurance.
Relevant factors suggest that visas might be available for the accompanying spouse and minor, unmarried children (under the category H-4), without quota limitations. However, there are risks that are associated with asking to bring a spouse and/or children, namely that the consular officer looking after the case might wonder why the prospective applicant would uproot an entire family for short-term nonagricultural jobs.
The officer might make up his mind that the prospective applicant may have discreet plans to stay in the US on a permanent basis. In such a case, the individual would not qualify for the h 2b visa in the first place.
If the spouse and children come to the US under the umbrella of h4 status, then they may not work. But they may qualify for a work visa in their own right.
Under the h 2b program, the visa holder and the family may travel in and out of the US or remain here on a continuous basis until the visa status expires.
How do countries qualify for the eligibility criteria?
Homeland Security Department publishes a list of the eligible countries for h 2a and h 2b programs whose validity lasts for a year.
The h 2b petition of only those nationals are taken into consideration and approved, which are from the listed eligible country list as designated by the secretary of homeland security.
Many enlisted countries are partial to the eligibility criteria and have specific regulations that govern their foreign affairs with them.
A country may qualify to be eligible to participate in the h 2a but not in the h 2b visa programs and vice versa. For instance, the Philippines and Mongolia are eligible to participate in the h 2b program, but for h 2a programs, they are designated as ineligible.
It should be noted that the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 stipulates that “whenever the laws of the United States mention or relate to foreign countries, states, governments, nations, or similar entities, such words shall include and such laws shall apply with respect to Taiwan.”
As a result, any references to “country” or “countries” in the regulations determining whether a country’s nationals are qualified to participate in the H-2 program are interpreted to include Taiwan.
This is in line with the US’ one-China policy, which has allowed the country to retain unofficial relations with Taiwan since the year 1979.
Can additions be made to the Eligible Countries List?
A h 2b petition presented by a national from a country not a part of the list can only enjoy the privilege of the approved petition if the Secretary of Homeland Security finds the proposed petition in the best interests of the United States.
The addition of a country to the Eligible Country List can be considered by the secretary of homeland security if the U.S. Department of State recommends its addition or the foreign government presents a written request or employers or other concerned parties want to hire nationals from an unlisted country.
When deciding which nations to add to the list, the Secretary of Homeland Security, with the approval of the Office of the Secretary of State, will consider the following factors:
- Issuing travel documents for the citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents of a country and monitoring the country’s cooperation in this regard
- The number of final and unexecuted (meaning completed but not yet carried out) orders of removal against citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents of that country
- The number of orders of removal issued and executed against citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents of that country.
Send a formal request to DHS’s Office of Policy or the Department of State at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate if you want a nation added to the Eligible Country List. The country listings are only good for a year. If the Secretary of Homeland Security finds that a nation is eligible, DHS may add it to the Eligible Country List at any time.
USCIS recommends filing two separate applications if you need H-2B employees from both eligible and otherwise nations.
Filing a single petition for employees from eligible countries and a second petition for workers from non-eligible countries may save one from the tedious processing time it takes to complete an H-2B worker request.
H2b eligible countries
As of the year 2022, the following countries are the countries whose nationals are eligible for the h 2b program:
- El Salvador
- The Netherlands
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
- Solomon Islands
- South Africa
- North Macedonia
- South Korea
- Papua New Guinea
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- San Marino
Changes being made by DHS to the list of h2b visa eligible countries lists
In order to be able to participate in the h 2b program, the eligible country list includes more countries for the h 2b category:
- The Republic of Cyprus
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Saint Lucia
- Dominican Republic (which was formerly only eligible for the h 2a program)
In line with the Homeland Security Department regulations governing the nonimmigrant visa programs, USCIS may approve petitions for the h 2a and h 2b visas for countries not enlisted in the eligibility list and even for the pending ones as the date of Federal Register Notice.
Such approval is done through a rigorous case study and is only granted if it corresponds with the best interest of the United States.
Countries no longer considered eligible
The U.S Homeland Security Department continues to scrutinize the list of the countries eligible for the nonimmigrant visa programs and can exempt those who fail to meet the standards set forth by the concerned organization.
By January 18th, it was announced that citizens of Soma, Belize, and Haiti Had been removed from the eligible countries lists due to failure of working at par with the program’s standards.
After a year of assessment and evaluation of the foreign nationals from Mongolia, their removal was executed by DHS due to the higher rates of unacceptance of their deported citizens.
Moldova’s eligibility for h 2b visa programs has been compromised due to its failure to meet the standards. Their citizens can longer participate in the h 2b visa programs. However, they remain eligible for the h 2a program.
Why do the countries lose their eligibility?
Abuse of the program, human trafficking concerns, fraud and deceits including treacherous activities during the application procedure, failure to deport the country after the service time is complete, high denial and overstay rates or noncompliance with H-2A and H-2B terms and conditions by citizens of a country, fraudulent work contracts, as well as proof of an economic effect on US businesses or areas as a result of the inclusion or exclusion of certain nations, are all reasons to terminate the designation of a country from the list.
Department of Homeland Security stated that Belize failed to meet the human trafficking concerns, while Samoa was exempted due to the non-cooperation on their part for not deporting their citizens once their tenure of service was completed.
The Secretary of Homeland Security, with the consent of the Secretary of State, deems visa overstay rates of 10% or above to constitute an excessively significant danger to the integrity of the immigration system when assessing the US interest.
The Department thinks that if one out of every ten nationals of a country fails to comply with his or her nonimmigrant status by departing on time, it indicates serious underlying issues with the country’s designation for participation in the H-2A or H-2B programs.
Naturally, when the overstay rate of a country’s nationals is unacceptably high, increasing numbers of participants from that country poses a bigger risk.