Tonga out of list of countries eligible for US seasonal and guest worker visas

Tonga has been taken off the list of countries whose citizens are eligible for American seasonal and guest worker visas.

Kaniva News reports the H-2A and H-2B visa programmes allow employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural and non-agricultural jobs, respectively. 

Tonga has already lost the opportunity to participate in the January recruitment for New Zealand’s RSE scheme. 

The New Zealand government wanted all RSE workers repatriated before Tonga could be allocated a new share of the 2000 employees who were expected to arrive in New Zealand this month.

Tonga was the only Pacific nation with RSE workers left in New Zealand. 

The US Trump-led administration raised the number of guest worker visas to 101,000 last year.

However, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has designated Tonga as “At Risk of Non-Compliance” with American requirements.

This is because of Tonga’s refusal to accept ICE charter flights for the repatriation of its nationals who have been ordered removed from the United States. 

Human rights groups and media investigations have found evidence of deportees being shackled for most of the deportation flights, poorly fed and not provided with adequate medical support.

There have also been reports of deportees with Covid-19 being flown by ICE, spreading the virus through detention centres.

The Guardian has reported that despite warnings from activists and medical professionals, ICE has continued flying immigration detainees across the United States and around the world on its network of private planes throughout the pandemic. 

“Tonga’s inconsistent co-operation with the United States regarding the return of its nationals and citizens with final orders of removal does not serve the U.S. Interest,” the agency said.

“Therefore, the Secretary of Homeland Security, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, is removing Tonga from the list of H-2A and H-2B eligible countries.” 

Statistics show that the United States deported 700 criminals to Tonga between 1992 and January 2016, an average of 29 criminals a year. 

In 2018 former Deputy Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni said about 400 Tongans had been deported from the US, Australia and New Zealand since 2012. 


Photo file Tongan seasonal workers