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In a significant move, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in collaboration with the Department of State (DOS), has unveiled the updated lists of countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B visa programs in the upcoming year. This pivotal announcement, to be formally published in the Federal Register on November 9, 2023, outlines the countries that meet the criteria for participation in these essential U.S. visa programs. 

As of November 9, 2023, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the Secretary of State, has decided to include Bolivia in the list of countries eligible to partake in the H-2A and H-2B programs. This decision reflects the ongoing evaluation and collaboration between the two departments, aiming to streamline the visa processes while ensuring compliance with U.S. regulations and interests. 

It is crucial to note that DHS retains the authority to modify the list of eligible countries at any time. This can occur through the publication of a Federal Register Notice, should DHS and DOS determine that a country fails to meet the requirements for continued designation. Factors such as fraud, abuse, nonimmigrant visa overstay rates, and other forms of noncompliance with the terms and conditions of the H-2 visa programs can lead to the exclusion or removal of a country from the list, safeguarding U.S. interests and maintaining program integrity. 

The H-2A and H-2B visa programs serve as vital pathways for U.S. employers to hire foreign nationals temporarily for agricultural and nonagricultural jobs, respectively. USCIS typically approves petitions for nationals of countries designated as eligible for these programs. However, exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis, even for countries not initially listed, if it is determined to be in the interest of the United States. 

As of November 9, nationals of the following countries are eligible to receive H-2A and H-2B visas: 

Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, The Kingdom of Eswatini, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia (H-2B only), Montenegro, Mozambique, Nauru, The Netherlands, Nicaragua, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay (H-2A only), Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saint Lucia, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Vanuatu. 

Notably, Mongolia and the Philippines are eligible for the H-2B program but not the H-2A program, while Paraguay is eligible for the H-2A program but not the H-2B program. 

It is essential to clarify that this notice does not impact the status of current H-2 beneficiaries in the United States, unless they apply to extend their stay based on a petition filed on or after the publication date of the Federal Register Notice. Similarly, this notice does not affect the eligibility of an H-2 beneficiary to apply for an H-2 visa or seek admission to the United States based on an H-2 petition approved before the publication date. However, nonimmigrants changing status to H-2A or H-2B within the United States are subject to these changes. 

Each country’s designation as eligible for the H-2A and H-2B visa programs is valid from November 9, 2023, until November 8, 2024. For more detailed information about these programs, individuals and employers are encouraged to visit the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers and H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers pages on the official DHS website. 

If you have any questions or need further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us for a consultation. Our dedicated team is here to support you through the application process and address any concerns you may have.