The U.S. State Department said late last Thursday that it will keep processing visas for seasonal workers. That statement came shortly after an announcement that it would suspend routine visa services in most countries indefinitely. The Wall Street Journal says the reversal came as lawmakers asked the administration to do whatever it could to keep seasonal workers available for U.S. agriculture.
Farmers warned that suspending access to immigrant labor, much of which comes from Mexico could threaten their livelihoods and the productivity of U.S. agriculture. Seasonal labor makes up as much as ten percent of the workforce for farmers. And it isn’t just agriculture that needs foreign labor. Other industries that specifically rely on Mexican labor include fisheries and resorts.
A State Department spokeswoman says they are well aware of the importance of the H-2 program to the economy and the food security of the United States. “We are reviewing all possible options,” she says. The state department initially decided to suspend routine visa processing in most countries worldwide in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Department officials have said the most likely approvals will come for returning workers who qualify to skip a visa interview.