DHS Announces Countries Eligible for H-2A Visa Program in 2023

November 21, 2022

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State (DOS) have released the list of countries whose nationals may participate in the coming year’s H-2A and H-2B visa programs.

The only change made to the list was the addition of Eswatini, a country in Southern Africa. As a result, Eswatini nationals can now participate in the H-2A visa program for seasonal or agricultural workers.

As of November 10, there were 87 countries whose citizens were eligible to obtain H-2A and H-2B visas. These visas are generally for low-skilled seasonal work. This eligibility designation lasts for one year before needing to be renewed. Therefore, the current notice will not affect those workers who already have H-2A or H-2B status unless they apply to extend or change their current status.

There are several factors the DHS considers when determining which countries may participate in the H-2A and H-2B visa programs. These factors include the country’s willingness to receive citizens when they are subject to a final order of removal from the United States and the number of orders of removal against the nations of the country.

In past years, countries sometimes faced delisting. However, the list for 2023 has not seen any removals from the eligibility list. There are many reasons why a country gets removed from the eligibility list. Such reasons include the following:

  • Noncompliance with H-2A and H-2B terms and conditions by the nationals of the country;
  • Rates of visa denial, fraud, abuse, and overstay rates;
  • Human trafficking concerns; and
  • Evidence of possible economic impact on regions or industries in the United States that may result from certain countries being excluded or included on the list.

For example, Moldavia lost eligibility for the H-2A program for 2022. Evidence indicated that agents charged recruiting fees while recruiting applicants, which is illegal by US law. In addition, evidence revealed fraud involving Moldavian nations using a photocopy of an authentic, unnamed petition and fraudulent work contracts.

Another example includes the removal of the Dominican Republic from the list of eligible countries to participate in the H-2B visa program in 2019. This removal occurred because of the Dominican Republic’s high overstay rate the previous year. However, the country regained its eligibility for the program in 2022.

The list can vary yearly, but for the coming year, the list is nearly the same as in 2022. Employers intending to hire foreign national workers must remember to complete Form I-9. Completing Form I-9 can prove difficult due to the many documents foreign national workers may present and the ever-changing regulations. The best way to ensure complete and accurate forms is to use an electronic I-9 management system. This system will guide employers through every step. Finally, it will safely and securely store the form and accompanying documents.

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