Manila: The United States has issued a one-year ban on Filipinos from its non-immigrant visa programmes citing “high overstay rates” and the “threat of human trafficking.”

In a notice issued recently, the US Secretary of Homeland Security’s (DHS) office identified the Philippines as among three countries whose citizens are not in the meantime eligible for being issued with temporary working visas. The other two are the Dominican Republic and Ethiopia.

“The Philippines has a high H-2B overstay rate. In FY (Fiscal Year) 2017, DHS estimated that nearly 40 per cent of H-2B visa holders from the Philippines overstayed their period of authorised stay,” the DHS said.

H2B pertains to temporary visa for non-agricultural workers.

Similarly, the US also put on hold the issuance of temporary visa for agricultural (H2A).

“DHS and DOS [We] also believe that these overstay and human trafficking concerns are severe enough to warrant removal from the H-2A visa programme as well. This concern is informed by a four-fold increase in H-2A visa applications from nationals of the Philippines between FY 2015-2018. The Philippines’ continued inclusion creates the potential for abuse, fraud, and other harm to the integrity of the H-2A or H-2B visa programmes,” it said.

The ban will stretch from January 19, 2019 to January 18, 2020.

The H2A and H2B programmes are typically availed by Filipino students for work exposure or practicum purposes. On the other hand, it also benefits US employers such as theme parks and large agricultural companies because the scheme provides relatively cheaper labour than hiring regular staff.

Responding on the new regulations in the US for Filipino temporary workers, the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) warned nationals against overstaying in the US.

“The DFA reminds Filipinos abroad, particularly those in the United States, to follow immigration rules and avoid staying beyond what is allowed in their visas,” the DFA said.

“As visa issuances are a country’s prerogative, the DFA notes the concerns that led the DHS to arrive at its decision. Nonetheless, 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,” a statement issued by the DFA on Tuesday said.

For its part, the Presidential Palace in Manila said it leaveS it to the DFA and Philippine Ambassador to the US to determine what steps to take with regards to the restrictions.