USA H2A and H2B Visas Expanded

The Czech Republic, Portugal, Sweden, Slovenia and Denmark are just some of the European countries which have been added to the United States list of nations whose citizens will become eligible to participate in certain visa programmes. In a wide reaching announcement made by the American authorities, the so-called H-2A and H-2B visa programmes will be expanded for 2015. In total, this equates to no less than 68 countries which are deemed as eligible for these types of visas. Nationals from any of the expanded nations listed are allowed to enter the United States for work so long as they meet the requirements of either H-2A or H-2B. Although they differ, both programmes allow employers in the United States to bring foreign nationals to the country to fill temporary job roles in either the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors. 

h2b and h1bOutside of Europe, other countries have been added to the list as well, including New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, The Philippines and Tuvalu in the Pacific Ocean. Joining the likes of the United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland, some Asian states also appear on the approved list. These include Turkey, Thailand and South Korea. In the Caribbean, there are many island nations which have also been included. Jamaica, Grenada, Haiti and Dominican Republic all make the list. In addition, the Central and South American countries of El Salvador, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador and Costa Rica are all included. Although there are some notable exceptions, such as India and Russia, the number of approved countries around the world has been vastly augmented.

The United States Citizen and Immigration Services department, which is commonly referred to simply as USCIS, currently approves H-2A and H-2B applications for nationals of countries that have been approved. These countries are the ones that the Secretary of Homeland Security has deemed as acceptable and therefore eligible to participate in the schemes. However, USCIS is allowed approve H-2A and H-2B petitions for individuals from nations that are not on the approved list so long as it can be properly determined that such an action in the best interest of the United States.

H2A and H2B Eligibility Explained

Both the H-2A and the H-2B visas are under programmes which are employer-sponsored. This means that they are visas which allow for temporary work to be undertaken but, of themselves, do not directly lead to the possibility of full immigration. Each of the programmes allows employers in America to act as a sponsor to foreign nationals. The visas are initially granted for a period of up to twelve months. However, extensions can be made after the first one has been accepted in one year increments. Two extensions are allowable meaning that workers may be granted up to a maximum of thirty six months in total. Nevertheless, some people from countries that have been on the approved list for longer have reported that applications for extensions in the past have not always been easy to obtain.

 Visa H-2A covers agricultural work and anyone who has found a farm sponsor in the United States should make sure that they apply under this programme only. The application might only be for seasonal work, like fruit picking, but it is designed by the US authorities to cover labour shortages in the sector and can lead to year-round work. Visa H-2B covers non-agricultural employment and is typically used for lower skilled work over a wide range of industries. Highly skilled workers and professional people who want to work in the country are expected to find sponsorships and make their visa application under separate visa programmes.

 Although would-be immigrants to the United States have a number of different routes they could take, they will probably need to hold citizenship in one of the named 68 countries in order to apply under these two specific visa programmes to enter the country for work. Once residing and working in the country, it is possible to apply for permanent residency under a so-called I-30 petition. United States border officials have been at pains to remind I-30 applicants that they ought to promote family unity, stating that immigration law allows citizens in the United States to petition on their relatives behalf to immigrate and work permanently in the country, so long as they have relevant qualifications. However, as people who enter the country under H-2A and the H-2B visas have done under an employer-led scheme, it is likely that that will have no family ties in the country. Those prospective immigrants without a family connection in the country can still apply for residency status, but under separate programmes. The Department of State sends notifications to applicants working in the US when they have become eligible to make a further application for an immigrant visa. This must be applied for within one year following the notification by the Department of State or the petition may be terminated.

February 2, 2015

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