The United States is currently rebounding from having a labor-demand shortage that is affecting the way small and medium sized businesses are operating in several states. This is especially true for the hospitality sector and for other employers looking for seasonal help in a variety of roles. As such, one strategy to address this labor shortage for businesses in the US is to increase the number of eligible countries in which citizens can apply for an H2-A or H2-B visa. This helps to increase the chances that new member countries of the H2 visa program will have respective citizens seeking opportunities in the US labor market.
The DHS, in accordance with the USCIS this week announced that they will add several countries to the H2-B roster, meaning that eligible citizens can now apply for a temporary non-immigrant visa to work in the United States under this allotment.
Per the USCIS memo, the United States will add the following countries to the H2 visa program for the next year: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, the Dominican Republic (only for the H2-A program), Haiti, Mauritius, and Saint Lucia.
Adding countries to the H2 visa program from the Caribbean region is a key move by the Secretary of State—noting that seasonal workers from this region are geographically close to the U.S. already, therefore creating a similar incentive that would be the case for Latin American workers to come to the U.S. as well for economic opportunities with reduced transportation costs.
The USCIS has noted that while these countries have been added to the list for the next year, countries can be dropped from the program at any time, per the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security. Reasons that a country might be dropped include the following:
- Fraudulent behavior on behalf of applicants
- Denial rates of H2 applicants
- Overstay concerns for those issued an H2-A or H2-B visa
- Human trafficking concerns between the US and a member state
The new countries will be effectively added on November 10th, 2021. For more information on this program, please see the following USCIS link: https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/alerts/dhs-announces-countries-eligible-for-h-2a-and-h-2b-visa-programs