Reverses decision to suspend H-2A processing
On Thursday, March 26, the U.S. State Department announced a reversal of its decision to completely suspend the processing of H-2A via holders at all embassies and consulates around the world. Noting the essentialness of the H-2 program to the economy and food security of the United States, the State Department said in a press release that going forward, it intends “to continue processing H-2 cases as much as possible, as permitted by post resources and local government restrictions.”
Specifically, consular officers are now authorized to approve applications without an in-person interview. Additionally, they are permitted to “now waive the visa interview requirement for first-time and returning H-2 applicants who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility.”
NPC and the U.S. agriculture community applauded the modifications and the expansion of interview waiver eligibility to ensure that the majority of H-2 processing can continue. NPC CEO Kam Quarles issued a statement saying, “The inability for H-2A guest workers to cross the border would seriously harm growers at one of the most vulnerable times of the year. Today’s announcement should clear the visa bottlenecks and avert that crisis. This is a very positive development and the direct result of the focused attention of Secretary Perdue and Senator Jim Risch (Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) with the State Department.”
According to the State Department, “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.”
Guidance can be found on travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/important-announcement-on-h2-visas.html and farmers.gov/manage/h2a.