MANILA (UPDATE) - The United States Department of Homeland Security has removed Filipinos’ eligibility to obtain certain H-2A and H-2B work visas for 1 year, citing “severe” overstaying and human trafficking concerns.
H-2A visas are given to foreign agricultural workers in the US, while H-2B visas are granted to non-agriculture workers.
“Nearly 40 percent of H-2B visa holders from the Philippines overstayed their period of authorized stay,” the US Federal Register said in a statement, citing data from 2017.
The ban is effective from January 19, 2019 to January 18, 2020.
In its notice published in the Federal Register, the Department of Homeland Security said the US Embassy Manila issued the "greatest number of T-derivative visas (T-2, T-3, T-4, T-5, T-6), which are reserved for certain family members of principal T-1 nonimmigrants (certain victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons). U.S. Embassy Manila issued approximately 40 percent of the total T-derivative visas issued worldwide from FY 2014-2016."
"A recent review of certain T-1 status recipients, whose spouses were issued T-2 visas during this same period, shows that approximately 60 percent were determined to have been trafficked to the United States on H-2B visas," the DHS added.
The DHS said it was “concerned about the high volume of trafficking victims from the Philippines who were originally issued H-2B visas and the potential that continued H-2B visa issuance may encourage or serve as an avenue for future human trafficking from the Philippines.”
Ethiopia and the Dominican Republic were also removed from the list of nationalities eligible to work in the US.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Palace respects the DHS’ decision, noting it is within the US’ sovereignty to revoke such privileges.
He, however, said Manila may appeal this decision if it finds it unjustifiable. He added, the Palace will let the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Embassy in the US to handle the matter.
“If that is the law in the US, and there are violations, then we will need to respect. We will only react if our workers are being mistreated, maltreated,” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.
“We need to know whether there is basis for the decision. If there is none, we can ask for reconsideration.”