2019 H2A and H2B Eligible Countries

 

Introduction

On January 18, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the Department of State (DOS), published the list of countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H2A and H2B nonimmigrant visa programs in 2019 [84 FR 133]. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a news alert on the 2019 H2A and H2B country lists on its website [PDF version].

In this article, we will examine the 2019 H2A and H2B eligible countries list. To see and compare to the 2018 list, please see our archived article on that subject [see article].

New Countries Eligible to Participate

Three new countries have been added to the list of countries eligible to participate in the H2A and/or H2B nonimmigrant visa programs for 2019.

First, Mozambique and Samoa will be eligible to participate in both the H2A and H2B visa programs. Samoa had been a participant as recently as 2017, but was stricken from the list in 2018 due to compliance issues.

Second, Paraguay has been added to the list of countries eligible to participate in the H2A visa program. However, Paraguay is not eligible to participate in the H2B program.

Countries No Longer Eligible to Participate

After being participants in the H2A and H2B visa programs in 2018, neither Ethiopia nor the Philippines were designated as eligible in 2019. Ethiopia had been designated as “at risk of non-compliance” since 2016, and it was not designated in 2019 due primarily to issues involving Ethiopia's cooperating in accepting the return of its nationals subject to final orders of removal. The Philippines was removed due to the high overstay rate of H2B beneficiaries and concerns that the H2A and H2B visa programs were liable to be exploited for human trafficking purposes.

The Dominican Republic participated in both the H2A and H2B visa programs in 2018. However, in 2019, the USCIS determined that the Dominican Republic will not be eligible for the H2B visa program due to its high H2B overstay rate. It will remain H2A eligible.

List of Countries Eligible to Participate in Both the H2A and H2B Visa Programs in 2019

Nationals of the following countries will be eligible to participate in the H2A and H2B visa programs in 2019:

Andorra France Mexico Slovenia
Argentina Germany Monaco Solomon Islands
Australia Greece Mongolia South Africa
Austria Grenada Montenegro South Korea
Barbados Guatemala Mozambique Spain
Belgium Honduras Nauru St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Brazil Hungary The Netherlands Sweden
Brunei Iceland Nicaragua Switzerland
Bulgaria Ireland New Zealand Taiwan
Canada Israel Norway Thailand
Chile Italy Panama Timor-Leste
Colombia Jamaica Papua New Guinea Tonga
Costa Rica Japan Peru Turkey
Croatia Kiribati Poland Tuvalu
Czech Republic Latvia Portugal Ukraine
Denmark Lichtenstein Romania United Kingdom
Ecuador Lithuania Samoa Uruguay
El Salvador Luxembourg San Marino Vanuatu
Estonia Macedonia Serbia  
Fiji Madagascar Singapore  
Finland Malta Slovakia  

List of Countries Eligible to Participate in the H2A Program Only in 2019

Nationals of the following three countries are eligible to participate in the H2A — but not H2B — visa program in 2019:

Dominican Republic
Moldova
Paraguay

General Notes

The new designations are valid from January 19, 2019 through the same date in 2020.

The new designations have no effect on foreign nationals who are currently in H2A or H2B status. However, such foreign nationals may be affected by the notice if they seek an extension of stay in H2 status or a change of status from H2 to another. We discuss change of nonimmigrant status in a separate article [see article].

The USCIS reserves the right to approve new or pending petitions for nationals of countries not on the H2A/H2B lists on a case-by-case basis where it determines that such approval would be in the interest of the United States.

Conclusion

The H2 nonimmigrant visa categories are used to fill certain non-specialty jobs. Employers seeking H2 workers and foreign nationals seeking H2 positions should consult with an experienced immigration attorney in the area of employment immigration for case-specific guidance. To learn more about the H2 nonimmigrant visa categories and other nonimmigrant work visa categories, please see our website's growing section on work visas [see category].