A one-year ban on granting new working visas to Filipino workers has recently taken effect. The United States Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) decided to freeze applications for visas under the H-2A and H-2B programs until January 18, 2020.
These programs both offer temporary working visa’s to individuals. The H-2A program is specifically aimed at agricultural workers. The H-2B program, on the other hand, is for all other classifications of workers outside of agriculture.
The USDHS explains in a notice that the banning of workers is due to issues of overstaying and human trafficking concerns. On overstaying, they state: “The Philippines has a high H-2B overstay rate. In FY 2017, DHS estimated that nearly 40 percent of H-2B visa holders from the Philippines overstayed their period of authorized stay.”
Concerning human trafficking, the notice reads: “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.”
While these numbers were mainly concerned with H-2B visas, the USDHS justifies that the harm is enough to preemptively remove the H-2A visa program. Especially since the visa applications for the H-2A program have quadrupled since 2015.
However, workers who already hold these visas will not be affected. They will be able to continue holding their H-2A or H-2B non-immigrant status. Only those seeking to extend or change their visas will be affected.
Do you think banning these visa applications is justified?