New countries to join US H-2A and H-2B visa schemes

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The US have announced that eleven countries will be added to the list of those eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B visa programs in 2015.

Employers can apply for H-2A (Agricultural) and H-2B (Non-Agricultural) visas to employ foreign workers for seasonal or temporary work within the US. The H-2A visa covers agricultural work such as fruit-picking, while the H-2B visa is for the non-agricultural sector, and is typically used for a wide range of lower skilled work.

The H-2A / H-2B visa program allows US employers to bring foreign workers to the US to fill temporary jobs. Only nationals on a specified list of countries may come under the scheme. The employer needs to apply for temporary labor certification, to show that they are unable to find a US Citizen or resident to do the job.

H-2A / H-2B visas are granted for an initial period of up to one year. Extensions in one year increments may be granted up to a maximum of three years in total. However, extensions may be difficult to obtain.

The announcement of the new list of Countries whose nationals can come under the H-2A and H-2B visa categories was made by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) following the decision by the Department of Homeland Security to add the new Countries to the list.

The countries to be included in the program are as follows:

  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Dominican Republic
  • Grenada
  • Haiti
  • Jamaica
  • Madagascar
  • Portugal
  • Sweden

USCIS normally only approves H-2A and H-2B visas to employ nationals of countries included in the list. However, it may approve visas for nationals not on the list if it is considered to be in the interests of the United States to do so.

The changes came into effect on 18th January, and will allow for US companies to bring foreign workers from eligible countries to the US to fill temporary jobs. For further information, please click here

The full list of countries included in the program is as follows:

ChileLatviaSolomon Islands
Costa RicaLithuaniaSouth Africa
CroatiaMacedoniaSouth Korea
Dominican RepublicMexicoSpain
El SalvadorMontenegroThailand
GrenadaNew ZealandUkraine
GuatemalaNorwayUnited Kingdom
HondurasPapua New GuineaVanuatu