By William Casis i FilAm Star Correspondent

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on January 22, reminded Filipinos abroad, particularly those in the United Stated, to follow immigration rules and avoid staying beyond what is allowed in their visas after the Philippines was declared ineligible for H-2A and H-2B US visas.

This was due to concerns that Filipinos can use at least one of these visas to overstay in the US. The US is a top destination for OFWs and those who may be victims of human trafficking.

“As visa issuances are a country’s prerogative, the DFA notes the concerns that led the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to arrive at its decision. Nonetheless, the Philippines is open to the possibility of working with the United States in addressing these issues, as it has previously done so with similar concerns involving the Filipino community there,” said the DFA.

The DHS released this decision on January 18.

However, the DFA said the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC, along with the other Philippine Consulates General in the US, will continue to extend appropriate assistance to all its nationals pursuant to the law.

The DFA said it is open to working with the US to address these concerns.

According to the US citizenship and Immigration Services, H-2A visas allow US employers “to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill seasonal and temporary agricultural jobs for which US workers are not available.

On the other hand, H-2B visas allow US employers “to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs for which US workers are not available.”

The ban on the visas started on January 19, 2019 and will end on January 18, 2020.

The DHS noted that in 2017, “nearly 40 percent of H-2B visa holders from the Philippines overstayed their period of authorized stay.” The DHS added that it shares human trafficking concerns with the Department of State (DOS).

“DHS and DOS are 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,” said the DHS.

“DHS and DOS also believe that these overstay and human trafficking concerns are severe enough to warrant removal (of the Philippines) from the H-2A visa program as well,” the agency added.

Citing 2017 data, the US Federal Register said in a statement, “nearly
40 percent of H-2B visa holders from the Philippines overstayed their period of authorized stay.

In its advisory in the Federal Register, the US Department of Homeland Security said the US Embassy in 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 non-immigrants (certain victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons).”

“US Embassy Manila issued approximately 40 percent of the total T-derivative visas issued worldwide from FY 2014-2016,” it said.

“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 said.

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