KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Ministry of Labour and Social Security is redoubling its efforts to increase the share of visas granted to Jamaicans for participation in the Seasonal Agricultural and Hospitality programmes in the United States (US).
On Wednesday, Minister of Labour and Social Security, Karl Samuda, and a team led by permanent secretary, Colette Roberts Risden, hosted a meeting with representatives from the Embassy of the United States to discuss the current visa arrangements, under which Jamaicans can participate in both components of the programme.
According to the ministry, approximately 5,000 Jamaican agricultural workers travel to the US each year to engage in a variety of farming activities, including planting and harvesting fruit and vegetable crops.
“While placement on the agricultural (H2A) component of the programme is exclusively managed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, placement on the Hospitality (H2B) component is facilitated both by the Government of Jamaica and private Employment Agencies, licensed to operate by the Ministry,” the ministry said.
“This component has experienced steady growth over the years, with the exception of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced drastic reductions in the hospitality industry. In 2022, approximately 12,000 Jamaicans obtained employment through the H-2B programme,” the ministry added.
In recognising the value of the programme to both the US and Jamaican economies, Samuda said that many overseas farmers can attribute their success to the Jamaican natives and that the island stands ready to supply the US with more workers.
“We want to ensure that Jamaica’s presence in the US benefits both Jamaica and the United States. Many Jamaicans have been able to provide opportunities for their children because of the programme, and many US farmers owe their success to the contribution of the Jamaican worker,” he said.
Samuda assured the team that the government was taking definitive steps to ensure that participating workers are properly oriented, noting that “they are our ambassadors, and so we must ensure that they know what is expected of them, what they are to expect, and how to conduct themselves”.
He also praised the US Government for its support of the programme, noting that the relationship reflects a “good partnership based on friendship and mutual respect”.
The head of the US delegation, deputy assistant secretary for Visa Services, Julie Stufft, confirmed that the Overseas Employment Programme and the Jamaican workers were highly valued by the US Government while noting that, “Jamaica has a product which everyone wants”.
Stufft assured the Jamaican team that her office would engage the relevant US government departments to explore recommendations for the expansions being sought by Jamaica.
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