Panama and Thailand Are Among Countries Added to H-2A, H-2B Work Visas

Nationals of Austria, Italy, Panama and Thailand are now eligible to apply for U.S. temporary worker visas.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updates the list of eligible countries each year for the popular H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker Visa and the H-2B Temporary Non-agricultural Worker Visa. The addition of Austria, Italy, Panama and Thailand centered on an assessment by The Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Considerations, wrote DHS Secretary Jeh Charles Johnson in a letter posted on the Federal Register site, included the history of H-2A and H-2B program usage by nationals as well as “evidence relating to the economic impact on particular U.S. industries or regions resulting from the addition or continued non-inclusion of specific countries.”

The list of countries making it onto the approved list is assessed annually by DHS and the Department of State, first started in 2008 with only 28 countries included. They determine which counties to add, maintain or remove for participation in the programs.

While the list is a guideline, it’s not exhaustive. Johnson wrote, “USCIS may approve H-2A and H-2B petitions for nationals of countries *not* on the list if it is determined to be in the interest of the United States.”

With the latest update, which was released in January, the green light on H-2A and H-2B temporary worker visas is now extended to a total of 63 countries. The visas apply to nationals performing seasonal or temporary work. Seasonal work usually means employment lasting less than a year. Temporary work usually means employment lasting less than three years.

In Federal Register letter, Johnson also stated the list notice “does not affect the status of aliens who currently hold valid H-2A or H-2B nonimmigrant status.” He goes on to say, however, that requests for extensions of stay in H-2 classifications or for a change of H-2 status to something else are impacted by the notice.

You can view the full list of countries included in the nonimmigrant visa programs here.