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U.S. State Department Resuming H-2 Visa Processing
USAgNet - 03/27/2020

The U.S. Department of State Thursday announced it intends process as many H-2 visa applicants as local embassies and consulates can handle.

"The H-2 program is essential to the economy and food security of the United States and is a national security priority," the Department reported in a release issued late Thursday. "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," it added.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said of the decision, "Temporarily waiving in-person interviews for H-2 visa applicants streamlines the application process and helps provide steady labor for the agriculture sector during this time of uncertainty. H-2 labor is vital to the economy and food security of America -- our farmers and producers depend on these workers to continue to feed and clothe the world."

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.

The State Department said it anticipates the vast majority of otherwise qualified H-2 applicants will now be adjudicated without an interview.

USDA has been directly engaged with both the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure minimal disruption in H-2A and H-2B visa applications during these uncertain times, Perdue noted in a release

"These flexibilities will allow our farmers and ranchers to utilize workers they have used in the past, or those who are already in the U.S., to get our food from the farm to our tables," Perdue said.

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 State Department release stated.

In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Department had temporarily suspended routine visa services at all U.S. embassies and consulates as of March 20.

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