The U.S. State Department will speed up approvals of H-2A farmworkers by waiving interviews for many applicants.
An Agri-Pulse report says the move is applauded by many of the country’s major ag groups, who were worried that embassy cutbacks due to the coronavirus outbreak would leave farmers without the labor they need to run their operations.
Late last week, the State Department said consular officers have the option to go ahead and “waive the visa interview for first-time and returning H-2A applicants who have no potential ineligibility.”
The State Department’s expansion of the waiver process also quadruples the period in which returning workers may qualify to have their interview waived. That timeframe used to be a year, but applicants who’ve had visas expire anytime during the last four years now won’t need to be interviewed if they are applying for the same visa classification and didn’t need an interview the last time they applied.
A State Department document says the new approval process will only be valid during the current calendar year.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said of the news, “We applaud the administration for recognizing the contributions H-2A and H-2B workers make on farms across this country to ensure Americans have access to healthy, affordable food. Acknowledging the critical role of immigrant farm laborers by expanding the number eligible for visas protects the public health while ensuring families continue to have access to a stable food source.
“America’s farmers and ranchers are committed to feeding America’s families during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond. Workers in the H-2A program represent 20% of the country’s farm workforce, so their contributions are necessary as we enter a critical time in the planting season.”