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USCIS Announces Addition of 16 Countries Eligible to Participate in the H-2A and H-2B Visa Programs
USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the Department of State, have added Andorra, Belgium, Brunei, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, Singapore, Taiwan**, and Timor-Leste to the list of countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B Visa programs for the coming year. The notice listing the eligible countries published on Nov. 18, 2015 in the Federal Register. DHS reserves the right to add countries to the eligible countries list at any time, and to remove any country at any time DHS determines that a country fails to meet the requirements for continued designation.
Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson and Secretary of State Kerry have agreed that Moldova will no longer be designated as an eligible country to participate in the H-2B program because Moldova is not meeting the standards in the regulation for the H-2B program participation. Nationals of Moldova may still participate in the H-2A program because Moldova continues to meet the standards in the regulation for H-2A program participation.
The H-2A and H-2B Visa programs allow U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural and nonagricultural jobs, respectively. Typically, USCIS only approves H-2A and H-2B petitions for nationals of countries the Secretary of Homeland Security has designated as eligible to participate in the programs. USCIS, however, may approve H-2A and H-2B petitions for nationals of countries not on the list if it is determined to be in the interest of the United States.
Effective Jan. 18, 2016, nationals of the following countries are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B Visa programs:
Papua New Guinea
*Moldova is designated to participate in the H-2A program, but it is not eligible to participate in the H-2B program.
** With respect to all references to “country” or “countries” in this document, it should be noted that the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, Pub. L. No. 96-8, Section 4(b)(1), provides that “[w]henever the laws of the United States refer or relate to foreign countries, nations, states, governments, or similar entities, such terms shall include and such laws shall apply with respect to Taiwan.” 22 U.S.C. § 3303(b)(1). Accordingly, all references to “country” or “countries” in the regulations governing whether nationals of a country are eligible for H-2 program participation, 8 CFR 214.2(h)(5)(i)(F)(1)(i) and 8 CFR 214.2(h)(6)(i)(E)(1), are read to include Taiwan. This is consistent with the United States’ one-China policy, under which the United States has maintained unofficial relations with Taiwan since 1979.
This notice does not affect the status of beneficiaries who currently are in the United States in H-2A or H-2B status unless they apply to change or extend their status. Each country’s designation is valid for one year from Jan. 18, 2016.
For more information on USCIS and its programs please visit www.uscis.gov.