SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Farmers and orchard owners nationwide are breathing a little easier this week as more H-2A workers will be able to cross the Mexican border.
The U.S. State Department on Thursday expanded the number of foreign agricultural workers whose visa applications can be processed without an in-person interview, The Capital Press reported.
After suspending “non-essential” visa processing in Mexico because of the coronavirus outbreak, the agency said it would prioritize processing for returning H-2A workers whose visas expired within the last year by giving them an interview waiver.
It then broadened those waivers to include new workers and returning workers whose visas had expired in the past 24 months.
“We first went from thinking we had zero workers to having some workers,” Allison Crittenden, American Farm Bureau Federation director of congressional relations, said.
Now, the bulk of the H-2A workforce should be able to come into the U.S., she said on Friday.
“We are grateful we will have broader access to the H-2A work force than the first announcement (of limited waivers) suggested,” Crittenden said.
H-2A workers in 2019 totaled 258,000, about 20% of the farm work force, and they are essential, she said, adding the other 80% of the farm work force is primarily documented and undocumented migrant workers.
— Associated Press