New countries eligible to participate in the H-2A & H-2B visa programs for 2015 Fiscal Year
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the Department of State (DOS), has added Austria, Italy, Panama, and Thailand to the list of countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B Visa programs for the coming fiscal year, which begins on October 1, 2014. The complete list of 63 eligible countries can be found at the USCIS website:
The H-2A and H-2B Visa programs allow U.S. employers (petitioners) to bring foreign workers to the U.S. to fill temporary agricultural (H-2A) and nonagricultural (H-2B) jobs, respectively. Generally, USCIS only approves H-2A and H-2B petitions for nationals of countries the secretary of the DHS has designated as eligible to participate in the programs. USCIS 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 U.S.
Both visa classifications require the petitioner to:
- Offer a job that is of a temporary or seasonal nature.
- Demonstrate that there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work.
- Show that the employment of the foreign nationals will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
There is no statutory numerical limit, or “cap,” on the total number of foreign agricultural workers who may be issued a visa or otherwise provided H-2A status. However, the H-2B classification is subject to an annual cap. Currently, the H-2B cap set by Congress is 66,000 per fiscal year, with 33,000 to be allocated for employment beginning in the 1st half of the fiscal year (October 1 – March 31) and 33,000 to be allocated for employment beginning in the 2nd half of the fiscal year (April 1 – September 30).
Procedurally, the petitioner must in general apply for and receive a temporary labor certification for the workers with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and then request H-2A or H-2B classification from USCIS by filing Form I-129 with USCIS. After USCIS has approved the I-129 petition, prospective foreign workers who are outside the U.S. may apply for an H-2A or H-2B visa, unless they are visa exempt, with the DOS at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, and then seek admission to the U.S. with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a U.S. port of entry.
Duration of Stay
H-2A and H-2B workers will be admitted for up to the period of time authorized on the temporary labor certification. They may seek extensions for qualifying employment in increments of up to one year, and the maximum period of stay in both classifications is 3 years.
Because the entire application process may take 3-4 months to be completed, we would recommend you contact us now if your company may have the need for temporary workers in the coming fiscal year.