Gaynor D. Daleno, Guam Daily Post, January 21, 2019
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with the State Department, announced over the weekend that workers from the Philippines are no longer allowed to seek employment in the United States under H-2B and H-2A work visas.
Guam’s main source of foreign labor for decades has been the Philippines.
DHS’s notice on the ban on workers from the Philippines went into effect Jan. 19, the department stated in a notice on the Federal Register.
It continues for a year.
H-2B visas have been the path to bringing in workers from the Philippines for construction jobs and for certain workers in the health care field. H-2A visas are for agricultural workers.
The change was prompted by what DHS called a high rate of Filipino workers’ “overstay” — meaning workers don’t return to the Philippines when the time allowed for them to work in the United States expires.
In the 2017 budget year, “DHS estimated that nearly 40 percent of H-2B visa holders from the Philippines overstayed their period of authorized stay,” Homeland Security added.
Homeland Security and the State Department also stated their concern about the high volume of human “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.”
The Philippines has shown a four-fold increase in H-2A visa applications during the 2015 to 2018 budget years, Homeland Security stated.
“The Philippines’ continued inclusion creates the potential for abuse, fraud and other harm to the integrity of the H-2A or H-2B visa programs.”
Two other countries – Ethiopia and the Dominican Republic – are included in DHS’s latest ban.
Current visa holders not affected; status remains
“The vast majority of Guam H-2B workers come from the Philippines, so this new rule adds yet another hurdle for Guam contractors to overcome,” Davis stated. “We are already facing unprecedented challenges in getting the labor we need for both military and nonmilitary construction projects. Now, that challenge is even greater.”
Eighty-one countries are still approved for the H-2 visa program.