H-2A and H-2B Program Changes: Which Nation’s Nationals May Participate

Each year, with the concurrence of the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security determines which countries may participate in the H-2A and H-2B nonimmigrant worker programs. On January 18, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a list of countries whose nationals may begin their participation in the programs.

These are programs that allow foreign nationals to work in the United States in temporary or seasonal jobs. The H-2A program is for agricultural positions, while the H-2B is for non-agricultural ones.

The H-2B program has been a particularly popular program among employers, so popular that the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) recently noted that on the earliest date an employer seeking an employment start date of April 1 may file an H-2B application requesting temporary labor certification, OFLC received about 4,500 applications that covered in total more than 80,000 worker positions. This is notable because, except in cases where an exemption applies, DHS may not issue more than 33,000 H-2B visas for employers seeking to hire H-2B workers during the second half of FY 2018 (April 1 to September 30).

Now, back to a discussion of the list of countries. A few countries previously on the list are no longer on it. Most notably, Haiti is no longer on the list. This is notable because of President Trump’s tough talk about Haiti, because of the termination (with a delayed effective date) of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Haiti, and because of what both Trump’s tough talk and the TPS termination suggest about Haiti’s diplomatic pull in Washington.

Another country previously on the list but no longer so is Belize. Belize’s exclusion from the list is, according to DHS, due to its noncompliance with anti-trafficking laws.

Samoa is also no longer on the list. Its exclusion is, according to DHS, due to its failure to accept individuals whom the US intended to physically remove from the US. This may be as portent, a bad sign of things to come for other nations that do not readily accept or provide the necessary documents to effectuate deportations.

The full list of countries whose nationals may begin new participation in the H-2A or H-2B visa programs is as follows:

  1. Andorra
  2. Argentina
  3. Australia
  4. Austria
  5. Barbados
  6. Belgium
  7. Brazil
  8. Brunei
  9. Bulgaria
  10. Canada
  11. Chile
  12. Colombia
  13. Costa Rica
  14. Croatia
  15. Czech Republic
  16. Denmark
  17. Dominican Republic
  18. Ecuador
  19. El Salvador
  20. Ethiopia
  21. Estonia
  22. Fiji
  23. Finland
  24. France
  25. Germany
  26. Greece
  27. Grenada
  28. Guatemala
  29. Honduras
  30. Hungary
  31. Iceland
  32. Ireland
  33. Israel
  34. Italy
  35. Jamaica
  36. Japan
  37. Kiribati
  38. Latvia
  39. Liechtenstein
  40. Lithuania
  41. Luxembourg
  42. Macedonia
  43. Madagascar
  44. Malta
  45. Mexico
  46. Moldova (NOTE: that Moldovan nationals are not eligible to begin participation in a H-2B program; however, they may participate in an H-2A program)
  47. Monaco
  48. Mongolia
  49. Montenegro
  50. Nauru
  51. The Netherlands
  52. Nicaragua
  53. New Zealand
  54. Norway
  55. Panama
  56. Papua New Guinea
  57. Peru
  58. The Philippines
  59. Poland
  60. Portugal
  61. Romania
  62. San Marino
  63. Serbia
  64. Singapore
  65. Slovakia
  66. Slovenia
  67. Solomon Islands
  68. South Africa
  69. South Korea
  70. Spain
  71. St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  72. Sweden
  73. Switzerland
  74. Taiwan
  75. Thailand
  76. Timor-Leste
  77. Tonga
  78. Turkey
  79. Tuvalu
  80. Ukraine
  81. United Kingdom
  82. Uruguay
  83. Vanuatu.