H-2A Visas, Embassy Closures, and Travel Restrictions

Visas and Travel from Major H-2A Source Countries

  • Jamaica has stopped processing visas until April. One embassy employee tested positive for COVID-19 and is now recovering. Jamaica’s international airports will close to incoming flights for a period of 14 days beginning March 21, 2020.
  • Guatemala has cancelled all flights into and out of the country for 15 days beginning on March 16 and all non-emergency visa appointments are also cancelled with the “exception of some H-2 applications” according to the U.S. Embassy. Guatemalan workers in the country right now, even with approved visas, are unlikely to be able to travel to the U.S. until something changes.
  • Mexico, it depends on the specific consulate involved.
    • The state department did issue a notice on Monday evening that they would stop processing all immigrant and non-immigrant visa applications, but other communications indicate that specific consulates are still processing H-2A visas for certain employees.
    • The Monterrey consulate handles the majority of H-2A visas. It is apparently still processing visas for H-2A workers who would be eligible for an interview waiver, this is primarily people who are returning workers who were in the U.S. within the last 12 months. This is estimated to be about 50-55% of the workers they normally process.

Action Items for Farms:

    1. Call your federal representatives in Congress and let them know that your H-2A workers are critical to your business and that every effort must be made to allow workers to get their visas.
    2. Be in touch with your H-2 agents to keep them focused on your employees and to offer any assistance you can.

In Other News

  • The federal government is considering legislation to pay for sick leave for employees of businesses with less than 500 workers. H-2A workers would likely be eligible for this. Employers will pay up front and get reimbursed in the form of tax incentives. This is still pending legislation and may change.
  • Farms cannot confine H-2A workers to the farm in an effort to protect them or the community. Government entities may take such actions for everyone in a given area but farms should be very careful not to do such restrictions on their own as it could be a violation of employees’ civil rights.

By Richard Stup, Cornell University. Permission granted to repost, quote, and reprint with author attribution.
The post H-2A Visas, Embassy Closures, and Travel Restrictions appeared first in The Ag Workforce Journal 

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