Jamaica’s Ministry of Labor and Social Security is strengthening its efforts to increase the percentage of visas given to Jamaicans who want to participate in the Seasonal Agricultural and Hospitality programs in the United States.
A meeting between Karl Samuda, Jamaican Minister of Labor and Social Security, officials from the US Embassy, and Permanent Secretary Colette Roberts Risden was called to address the current visa policies by which Jamaicans may participate in both elements of the program. According to the Ministry, about 5,000 Jamaican agricultural workers travel to the US each year to work in a variety of agricultural jobs, including planting and harvesting fruits and vegetables.
While the agricultural H2A component of the program is managed solely by Jamaica’s Ministry of Labor and Social Security, placement on the H2B Hospitality component is handled by Jamaica’s government and private employment agencies that have licenses granted by the Ministry to operate. He Hospitality component has grown at a steady pace each year except in 2020 when it was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Comparatively, in 2022, some 12,000 Jamaicans got jobs through the H2B program.
Samuda said that many farmers overseas credit the success of their farming operations to Jamaican locals. Jamaican is ready to send more workers to the US, which emphasizes how important the program is to the economies of both the US and Jamaica. He added that his Ministry wants to make sure Jamaica’s presence in the US is of benefit to both countries. Many Jamaicans have had the chance to provide more opportunities for their children as a result of the program, while many farmers in the US owe their successes to the contributions of Jamaican workers.
The officials charged with addressing the visa issue provided reassurances to Minister Samuda that the government is moving decisively to ensure the appropriate orientation of workers. According to officials, Jamaicans participating in the program are “our ambassadors” and it is critical that they understand the expectations placed upon them and how they should act. Samuda also praised the government in the US for supporting the initiative and noted the “good partnership” that exists between the US and Jamaica.
Julie Stufft, deputy assistant secretary for visa services and the head of the US delegation at the meeting, recognized the importance of the Overseas Employment Program and the workers from Jamaica, while also stating that “Jamaica has a product which everyone wants.” She promised the Jamaican delegation that her office would consult with relevant Us government agencies to explore the expansion of the program requested by Jamaica.
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