The Philippine honorary consul to the CNMI said the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ decision to remove the Philippines from H-2B and H-2A visa program was a decision for Washington, D.C. to carry out and nobody else.
“It is their prerogative,” Philippine honorary consul to the CNMI Glicerio Arago noted in an interview last Tuesday.
Saipan Tribune solicited his comments after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in a Jan. 19, 2019 post in the Federal Register noted that the Philippines, Ethiopia, and the Dominican Republic are among the list of countries banned from applying for H-2A or H-2B visas.
The notice cited high overstay rates for H-2B visa holders from the Philippines and the Dominican Republic, while Ethiopia was removed from the eligible list due to its designation of “at risk of non-compliance” since 2016. It further noted that the U.S. Embassy in Manila issues the largest number of T-visas—visas usually afforded to severe human trafficking –among all U.S. posts around the world.
“U.S. Embassy Manila issued approximately 40 percent of the total T-derivative visas issued worldwide from fiscal year 2014 [through] fiscal year 2016,” the notice wrote.
“The Philippines’ continued inclusion [to the program] creates the potential for abuse, fraud, and other harm to the integrity of the H-2A or H-2B visa programs,” it continued.
“What is important now is for the Philippine government to properly represent itself and deal with Washington, D.C. [regarding] this problem,” Arago said. “This [visa] is very critical, especially for Filipino construction workers,” he noted.
The Pacific Daily News noted there are about 1,300 freshly approved H-2B visas for Guam, 606 of which were on island as of Tuesday, the media outlet noted quoting the Guam Department of Labor.
Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC in late March 2018 reported that they have procured 1,542 H-2B visa holders from Taiwan and Philippines. The company did not specify what percentage of the 1,542 H-2B visa holders were from the Philippines.
Saipan Tribune reached out to a representative of the Philippine Consulate in Guam for comment, but it did not immediately issue a statement.