US ban on work visas due to remarks of labor attaché – Locsin
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has blamed the country’s labor attaché in the United States for its decision to suspend for a year the issuance of temporary work visas to Filipinos.
“Thank you to the labor attaché who denounced work/study J1 visas as slavery. She started the ball rolling,” Locsin tweeted on Wednesday, a day after the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a one-year ban on the issuance of H-2A and H-2B visas to Filipinos.
“Salamat (thank you) on behalf of Filipinos who won’t be allowed into the US anymore. Good work. Shet,” he added.
Locsin said the labor official, whom he did not name, had complained that some holders of temporary work and students visas were being taken advantage of by employers, prompting a DHS investigation.
“One of our labor attachés questioned such visas, so I guess we got what we asked for,” he said.
Citing concerns on human trafficking and of visa holders overstaying, the DHS announced that it would no longer issue new H-2A and H-2B visas to Filipinos from Jan. 19, 2019, to Jan. 18, 2020.
H-2A visas are temporary visas given to foreigners for seasonal or temporary agricultural work, while H-2B visas are for foreign nonagricultural workers.
Holders of H-2B visas can stay up to three years in the United States.
“The Philippines has a high H-2B overstay rate. In (Fiscal Year) 2017, the DHS estimated that nearly 40 percent of H-2B visa holders from the Philippines overstayed their period of authorized stay,” the agency said.
“The DHS and DOS (Department of State) are (also) 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,” the DHS said.
On Tuesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the ban was a prerogative of US authorities, even as it reminded Filipinos abroad to follow immigration rules and avoid staying beyond the period allowed in their visas.
But 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,” the DFA said.
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