On March 26, the State Department released a statement regarding its intention to continue processing nonimmigrant, temporary visas under the H-2 visa program “as much as possible” and as “permitted by post resources and local government restrictions” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The statement notes that the H-2 program “is essential to the economy and food security of the United States.” The H-2 category allows temporary agricultural (H-2A) and non-agricultural (H-2B) visas for U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign workers to the United States. In FY2019, the State Department issued 204,801 H-2A visas for temporary workers performing agricultural services.
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.
Original statement posted here.
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