In a recent announcement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in collaboration with the Department of State (DOS), has unveiled the list of countries whose citizens are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B visa programs for the upcoming year.
Understanding H-2A and H-2B Visa Programs
Generally, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves petitions for these programs only for nationals of countries designated as eligible by the Secretary of Homeland Security.
However, exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis for nationals from countries not on the list if it is deemed to be in the best interest of the United States.
Flexibility to Amend the Eligibility List
The DHS maintains the authority to modify the list of eligible countries at any time through the publication of a Federal Register Notice. This can occur if both the DHS and DOS determine that a country no longer meets the necessary criteria for continued designation.
Factors that could lead to a country’s exclusion or removal from the list include instances of fraud, abuse, nonimmigrant visa overstay rates, and noncompliance with the terms and conditions of the H-2 visa programs, which are contrary to U.S. interests.
Updated List of Eligible Countries for H-2A and H-2B Visa
Effective November 9, 2023, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in agreement with the Secretary of State, has made an important update to the eligibility list, the following countries are eligible for H-2A and H-2B visas:
|Andorra||The Kingdom of Eswatini||Madagascar||Saint Lucia|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Guatemala||Mozambique||South Africa|
|Bulgaria||Hungary||New Zealand||St. Vincent and the Grenadines|
|Croatia||Jamaica||Papua New Guinea||Timor-Leste|
|Republic of Cyprus||Japan||Paraguay**||Turkey|
|Dominican Republic||Liechtenstein||Poland||United Kingdom|
Newly Added Countries
References to “country” or “countries” in the document include Taiwan, in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. This is consistent with the United States’ one-China policy. Furthermore, Bolivia has been added as a newly eligible country for the H-2A and H-2B visa programs.
Important Information for Current Visa Holders
This notice does not affect the status of H-2 beneficiaries who are currently in the United States unless they apply to extend their stay based on a petition filed on or after the Federal Register Notice’s publication date.
Similarly, this update does not impact the eligibility of H-2 beneficiaries to apply for an H-2 visa or seek admission to the United States based on an H-2 petition approved before the publication date.
It does apply to nonimmigrants changing their status in the United States to H-2A or H-2B. Each country’s designation is valid from November 9, 2023, until November 8, 2024.