Haiti Removed From Temporary Visa Eligibility List

From labor disputes cases to labor and employment publications, for your research, you’ll find solutions on Bloomberg Law®. Protect your clients by developing strategies based on Litigation...

By Laura D. Francis

Haiti has been removed from the list of countries eligible to participate in two temporary work visa programs.

A Jan. 17 notice from the Department of Homeland Security lists Haiti as one of three countries whose nationals no longer can apply for H-2A or H-2B visas. The announcement comes less than a week after President Donald Trump reportedly referred to the Caribbean country as well as African nations as “shithole countries.”

Haitians who apply for the visas have shown “high levels of fraud and abuse” and a “high rate” of staying in the U.S. after their visas have expired, the DHS said in the notice. The State Department also has refused to issue the visas to Haitian nationals at “extremely high rates,” the DHS said. Therefore, allowing them to continue to apply for the visas is “no longer in the U.S. interest,” the agency said.

H-2A visas go to temporary workers in the agriculture industry, while H-2B visas go to seasonal nonagricultural workers such as those in landscaping, amusement, and hospitality.

A representative for the DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Jan. 17 declined to comment on the reasoning behind the decision. A representative for the Haitian Embassy also didn’t respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.

Low Participation Rates

Few Haitians appear to be participating in the programs. Between fiscal years 1997 and 2016, only 65 H-2A visas were issued to Haitian nationals, and no H-2B visas were issued, according to State Department data. Between March and November 2017, 54 H-2A visas and one H-2B visa went to Haitians.

Haitians had a 71.44 percent visa refusal rate in FY 2017, the State Department said. Mongolia, which had a 53.62 percent refusal rate, was added this year to the list of countries eligible for the visa programs.

The president reportedly derided Haiti during a Jan. 11 meeting with a bipartisan group of senators who had reached a deal on an immigration package that would provide legal status to immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Trump denied making the comments, but others in attendance, including Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said the language was used.

Haitian nationals in the U.S. also were dealt a blow in November when the DHS ended temporary protected status for the country. Some 60,000 Haitians have been allowed to stay and work in the U.S. since a 2010 earthquake. The country has since sufficiently recovered from that earthquake, the DHS said.

It’s unclear whether the country’s removal from the eligibility list for the two visa programs is connected either to the president’s comments or the TPS decision.

Request Labor & Employment on Bloomberg Law