“Your previous article has really stirred things up …. a lot of retaliation against who people think might have written you…which is now a large group of suspects…”
In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State temporarily suspended routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates as of March 20, 2020. As resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services.
The H-2 program is essential to the economy and food security of the United States and is a national security priority. Therefore, we intend to continue processing H-2 cases as much as possible, as permitted by post resources and local government restrictions. Secretary Pompeo, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has authorized consular officers to expand the categories of H-2 visa applicants whose applications can be adjudicated without an in-person interview. Consular officers can, if they so choose, now waive the visa interview requirement for first-time and returning H-2 applicants who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility. This expansion also increases the period in which returning workers may qualify for an interview waiver. Applicants whose previous visas expired in the last 48 months, and who did not require a waiver of ineligibility the last time they applied, do not need to be interviewed in-person if they are applying for the same visa classification as their previous visa. We anticipate the vast majority of otherwise qualified H-2 applicants will now be adjudicated without an interview.
Consular resources and local government restrictions vary widely, and each consular section is continuously reviewing its capacity to adjudicate visa applications during this worldwide pandemic. We encourage applicants to consult with the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate in order to confirm the level of services currently offered. Our overseas missions will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.
The American Farm Bureau is raising concern over potential labor and supply chain issues as the State Department announced it is suspending immigrant and nonimmigrant visas out of their US Embassies across Mexico https://t.co/UdNDvcbmUb
— CNN (@CNN) March 18, 2020
U.S. Embassy and consulates in Mexico to shut down, threatening labor supply for American farms
Failure to provide work visas 'will impact our ability to provide a healthy, affordable domestic food supply,' Farm Bureau says.https://t.co/yCibHJ6XRp
— America's Voice (@AmericasVoice) March 18, 2020
State Department bows to pressure from farm groups that said Americans would see "bare shelves in grocery stores" without laborers https://t.co/yxCLUc2Y6L
— Roll Call (@rollcall) March 27, 2020
Suspension of visa processing for Mexican seasonal workers hits U.S. farms, fisheries https://t.co/M1fPbzXAXW
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) March 18, 2020
CLARIFICATION: Please note that you must have an approved U.S. non-immigrant or immigrant visa petition (I-129, I-140, or similar) or a certificate of eligibility in an approved exchange visitor program (DS-2019) to apply. https://t.co/U9uVQ5tz6Q
— Travel – State Dept (@TravelGov) March 27, 2020
I am told that Kenyan nurses and doctors are lining up at the US Embassy in Nairobi fighting to go to the US to help fight Covid 19.
Such departures at these times should be considered treason. #KaaNyumbani
— Robert Alai (@RobertAlai) March 28, 2020
The U.S. Mission wishes to clarify that the U.S. is not recruiting foreign medical professionals to assist in the COVID-19 response. Only individuals with an approved H or J petition will receive an emergency visa appointment. pic.twitter.com/Drj2U484of
— U.S. Mission Nigeria (@USEmbassyAbuja) March 27, 2020
Great outcome from our discussions with State Department, which will restart processing of J and H visa applications from medical professionals. An important first step, and we must address other significant obstacles for newly matched #IMGs. #SARSCoV2 https://t.co/pR5TPXRsjk
— William W. Pinsky, MD, FAAP, FACC (@ECFMGPrez) March 27, 2020
I’m told this tweet landed “poorly” @StateDept. US diplomats had no heads up. Visa services are supposed to be frozen. Calls from interested people are pouring in, so US citizens stuck abroad can’t get through. And it looks like the US is trying to steal other countries’ doctors. https://t.co/ilbic6pRaf
— Nahal Toosi (@nahaltoosi) March 27, 2020
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Say, Ian, I wanted to ask you a question about this doctor visas thing that you have on your web page. Are you moving medical professionals who can work on COVID-19 treatments basically to the front of the line or speeding up their processing or give them – giving them some sort of preference? And what would you say to people who say you’re essentially trying to poach people and you’re encouraging a brain drain? Thank you.
MR BROWNLEE: We had – excuse – thank you, Carol, for that question. We had some – I’ve got to confess maybe what we put up on the web page is not as clear as it might have been. We’re ready to work with people who are already accepted into existing U.S. programs and had otherwise planned to travel to the United States. We are not going out looking for others. These are people who were ready to come in. What we’ve done is around the world we have suspended routine visa services, but we are – we have not shut down visa services. We’ve suspended routine visa services, and our posts overseas are ready to work with applicants who are – who were already identified as being eligible for these visas. Does that answer your question?
QUESTION: My question is that – can I actually just follow up on Carol’s question about the visas with regards to the medical professionals? Thank you for the clarification, and I appreciate you saying the initial tweet maybe wasn’t clear enough. Can you – based on what you just said, can we just say now that there is actually an exception to medical professionals who already have their jobs secured but they need their visa to be processed? So can we say that State Department is actually processing those visas, because at the moment all other visas are suspended? And can you elaborate a little bit more on the motivation to process those visas over others? Thank you.
MR WALTERS: [MED CROSSING TO CA LANE]
Well, let me clarify one point. All other visas are not suspended. They are not suspended. We have suspended routine visa services so that we can concentrate our efforts on assisting U.S. citizens. But all other visa services are by no means suspended. So for example, adoption visas. We are still processing visas for U.S. couples who are adopting children overseas. In some cases where there are immigrant visas where an applicant would be at risk of aging out under the law, we are still processing those visas. What we’ve done is substantially reduced our – the provision of visa services.
But let me just – for the sake of absolute clarity, I will read you the – what we are saying about these student – excuse me, about these doctors. The Department of State stands ready to work with doctors and other medical professionals who are already accepted into existing U.S. programs and otherwise expected to travel to the United States to work or study. Even though routine visa services are suspended, the Department and our post services are working to serve the most urgent visa applicants as resources and local government restrictions allow. We encourage medical professionals who already have an approved U.S. visa petition or certificate of eligibility in an approved exchange visitor program, particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19, to consult with the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate to determine what services that post is currently able to provide. Over.
QUESTION: Hi there. I’m sorry, I’m still confused about this whole physician, medical professional visa thing. If in fact there’s no special treatment being given to them or you’re not specifically encouraging them, why did you put out this tweet or this statement that was also on the travel.state.gov? It wasn’t just a tweet. I don’t get it. It just seems to be – if there is no special treatment, it seems to be a bit tone deaf, considering this mad scramble that everyone else in the world is going through, and including in the U.S.
And then the other thing I’d just like to point out is for everyone else who got that fact sheet, which is great – thank you very much – but make sure you scroll down in the repatriation section, because you don’t see all of the countries at first, and I made that mistake just now. Anyway, thank you for doing this.
MR BROWNLEE: I’m sorry. Once again, I had mute pressed. Matt, I – what I said to myself here was I’m going to have to take the question as to how this all came to pass. But we are still processing visas around the world for certain cases. These are one, certain H-2As are another. But otherwise I’m happy to take that question. Thank you.