MANILA, Philippines – The United States declared the Philippines ineligible for H-2A and H-2B American visas due to concerns that Filipinos can use at least one of these visas to overstay in America or engage in human trafficking.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published this decision on Friday, January 18.
In a statement on Tuesday, January 22, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it is open to working with the US to address these concerns.
H-2A visas allow US employers "to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill seasonal and temporary agricultural jobs for which US workers are not available," according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
H-2B visas allow US employers "to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs for which US workers are not available."
The ban on granting such visas will be from January 19, 2019, to January 18, 2020.
The DHS noted that in 2017, "nearly 40% of H-2B visa holders from the Philippines overstayed their period of authorized stay." The DHS added that it shares human trafficking concerns with the Department of State (DOS).
"DHS and DOS 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," said the DHS.
"DHS and DOS also believe that these overstay and human trafficking concerns are severe enough to warrant removal from the H-2A visa program as well," the agency added.
Reacting through a statement on Tuesday, the DFA then reminded Filipinos abroad, particularly those in the US, "to follow immigration rules and avoid staying beyond what is allowed in their visas."
"As visa issuances are a country's prerogative, the DFA notes the concerns that led the DHS to arrive at its decision. Nonetheless, the Philippines is open to the possibility of working with the United States in addressing these issues, as it has previously done so with similar concerns involving the Filipino community there," said the DFA.
"The Philippine Embassy in Washington DC, along with the other Philippine Consulates General in the US, will continue to extend appropriate assistance to all its nationals pursuant to law," the DFA added.
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.