- DTN Headline News
H-2A Visa Waiver Expanded
Monday, March 30, 2020 9:58AM CDT
By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) -- Farmers who rely on H-2A workers received a little more relief from the State Department late Thursday with an announcement that U.S. consulates will expand the group of H-2 applicants who can get visas without an in-person interview.

Agricultural groups and farmers who employ guest workers have been concerned since the State Department announced March 20 that it was suspending all non-emergency visa applications. Thursday's announcement opens the door for more H-2A and H-2B workers to continue entering the country for work. Embassies and consulate offices shut down such visa processing to eliminate direct contact with applicants because of the coronavirus.

The State Department noted, "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."

The decision allows consulates to waive the visa interview requirements for both returning workers and first-time applicants, the State Department said. Also, prior H-2 workers who have held visas going back 48 months also can apply again without an interview as well. The State Department said this change should ensure the vast majority of H-2 applicants will be reviewed without needing an interview.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue credited both the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security for making the H-2 changes.

"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," Perdue said in a statement. "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."

The H-2A program brought in roughly 257,000 workers last year, of which about 90% come from Mexico. They work on nine-month visas during that time.

Organizations representing largely fruit and vegetable growers that rely on H-2A workers praised the new waivers, saying the decision will help ensure food security.

"We are grateful for the administration's recognition of our part in keeping food moving from farm to table," said Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association. "We will continue to monitor the implementation and application of these revised regulations and ensure that the fresh fruit and vegetable industry has access to the workers that keep our food economy going during these uncertain times."

Dave Puglia, president and CEO of Western Growers, credited Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "for taking a practical approach" to meeting the work needs of farmers while also protecting State Department personnel.

"The steps taken by Secretary Pompeo ease the flow of guest workers at a time when our farmers are redoubling their efforts to provide our nation with safe, healthy, abundant and affordable food," Puglia said. "We are grateful to Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Perdue and all those in the Administration who listened to the needs of the agriculture community in the midst of our present crisis and acted swiftly to implement this common-sense solution."

Last week, USDA and the Department of Labor also set up a process to allow nearly 20,000 H-2A and H-2B workers already in the country to extend their contracts and transfer to different employers.

Details on that program can be found at www.farmers.gov/h2a

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN


blog iconDTN Blogs & Forums
DTN Market Matters Blog
Editorial Staff
Friday, March 27, 2020 12:09PM CDT
Thursday, March 26, 2020 9:11AM CDT
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 11:37AM CDT
Technically Speaking
Editorial Staff
Monday, March 30, 2020 8:58AM CDT
Monday, March 23, 2020 9:20AM CDT
Monday, March 16, 2020 8:56AM CDT
Fundamentally Speaking
Joel Karlin
DTN Contributing Analyst
Monday, March 30, 2020 10:40AM CDT
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 12:56PM CDT
Wednesday, March 18, 2020 10:41AM CDT
DTN Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor
Friday, March 27, 2020 10:51AM CDT
Monday, March 23, 2020 6:32AM CDT
Monday, March 23, 2020 6:32AM CDT
DTN Ag Weather Forum
Bryce Anderson
DTN Ag Meteorologist and DTN Analyst
Thursday, March 26, 2020 12:44PM CDT
Tuesday, March 24, 2020 12:18PM CDT
Friday, March 20, 2020 2:44PM CDT
DTN Production Blog
Pam Smith
Crops Technology Editor
Friday, March 27, 2020 1:45PM CDT
Friday, March 20, 2020 5:43PM CDT
Wednesday, March 18, 2020 4:34PM CDT
Harrington's Sort & Cull
John Harrington
DTN Livestock Analyst
Monday, March 23, 2020 3:43PM CDT
Tuesday, March 17, 2020 3:02PM CDT
Monday, March 16, 2020 4:52PM CDT
South America Calling
Editorial Staff
Tuesday, March 24, 2020 1:44PM CDT
Wednesday, March 4, 2020 3:35PM CDT
Tuesday, February 11, 2020 5:13PM CDT
An Urban’s Rural View
Urban Lehner
Editor Emeritus
Friday, March 20, 2020 8:30AM CDT
Monday, March 9, 2020 5:22PM CDT
Monday, March 2, 2020 10:03AM CDT
Machinery Chatter
Dan Miller
Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Thursday, March 26, 2020 1:52PM CDT
Wednesday, March 11, 2020 11:13AM CDT
Tuesday, March 3, 2020 2:32PM CDT
Canadian Markets
Cliff Jamieson
Canadian Grains Analyst
Friday, March 27, 2020 4:02PM CDT
Thursday, March 26, 2020 4:53PM CDT
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 4:18PM CDT
Editor’s Notebook
Greg D. Horstmeier
DTN Editor-in-Chief
Tuesday, March 24, 2020 12:53PM CDT
Monday, March 16, 2020 11:29AM CDT
Thursday, March 5, 2020 5:06PM CDT
Copyright DTN. All rights reserved. Disclaimer.
Powered By DTN