USCIS Adds to the List of Countries Whose Citizens Can Participate in the H2A and H2B Programs

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service announced in January, 2011, that 16 new countries have been added for the first time to a list of nations whose citizens can work temporarily in the United States on guest worker visas.

The five former communist nations of Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Macedonia and Slovenia were added to a list of countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B programs. Also added were the Oceanic countries of Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuval and Vanuatu. The island nation of Barbados in the Caribbean was also added. The new additions bring the total of countries who are eligible for temporary guest-worker visas this year to 53.

Countries eligible for the program are updated yearly. A total of 38 countries remained on the list from last year to this year, though Indonesia was removed because it “is not meeting the standards set out in the regulation,” according to USCIS.

A country must meet four factors to have its citizens deemed eligible to apply for H-2A and H-2B visas. The factors include: the country’s cooperation in issuing travel documents for citizens and residents who are subject to a final order of removal, the number of final and unexecuted orders of removal against citizens and residents, the number of executed orders of removal against citizens and residents, and other factors that serve the U.S. interest.

H-2A and H-2B allow U.S. businesses to hire foreign nationals to fill jobs for which U.S. citizens cannot meet the need.

H-2A visas allow foreign nationals into the U.S. for temporary or seasonal agricultural work. There are currently 30,000 such workers in the United States, who are covered under law by U.S. wage laws, worker’s compensation and other standards.

H-2B visas allow employers to hire foreign nationals for temporary nonagricultural services or labor. Employers who wish to employ H-2B workers must apply for certification. H-2B workers can only be hired if there are insufficient U.S. workers who can fulfill the need for the temporary service and if their employment will not affect the wages and conditions of similarly situated U.S. workers, in addition to meeting other requirements.

Stewart Rabinowitz is President of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. Mr. Rabinowitz is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. To contact a Dallas immigration lawyer or Dallas immigration attorney visit