USCIS has issued a new list designating the countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B programs. The H-2A and H-2B visa categories permit U.S. employers to bring foreign workers to the U.S. to fill temporary and/or seasonal agricultural jobs (H-2A) and nonagricultural jobs (H-2B). Effective January 18, 2012, nationals from the following 58 countries are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B programs: Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Nauru, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Samoa, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Tonga, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Vanuatu. Five new countries were added to the list this year, including Haiti, Iceland, Montenegro, Spain and Switzerland. The country designation is valid for one year and nationals from countries not designated on the list may still obtain an H-2A or H-2B approval if USCIS deems it to be in the interest of the U.S.
The H-2B category allows individuals to enter the U.S. for temporary non-agricultural employment. The H-2B category is capped at 66,000 per year with 33,000 available for the 1st half of the fiscal year (Oct. 1 – March 31) and the remaining 33,000 for the 2nd half of the fiscal year (April 1 – September 30). As of 05/11/2010, the USCIS has approved 65,307 H-2B petitions of the 66,000 available and 828 are still pending adjudication. Therefore, the FY2010 H-2B Cap will soon be reached. But the USCIS will continue to accept petitions from H-2B workers who are exempt from the cap, including current H-2B workers who wish to extend their stay in H-2B status; fish roe processors, fish roe technicians and/or supervisors of fish roe processing; and workers engaged in employment in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and/or Guam.
The DHS secretary has designated 11 new countries as eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B nonimmigrant visa programs. The new countries include: Croatia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ireland, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Serbia, Slovakia and Uruguay. This update is published in the Federal Register.
The H-2B category is available to individuals temporarily in the U.S. for seasonal, periodic, or intermittent employment of a non-agricultural nature. The H-2B category is capped at 66,000 per year worldwide with 33,000 available on October 1 and 33,000 available on April 1 of each year. USCIS has announced that it will continue to receive H-2B petitions for fiscal year 2009 because they have not yet met the H-2B quota. However, they must be adjudicated by September 30, 2009. Any filed after that date will be counted toward FY2010 which starts on October 1.