The U.S. Department of State has announced that beginning Wednesday, March 18th, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and all U.S. consulates in Mexico will suspend routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa services. This includes both visa interviews at the consulate and processing at the Centros de Atención a Solicitantes, which impacts H-2A visa applications.
Since the announcement was made, we have learned that all U.S. consulates in Mexico will implement a protocol to continue processing applications for “returning” H-2A workers, defined as workers with H-2A visas that have expired within the last 12 months, and will prioritize returning workers who are eligible for an interview waiver.
The U.S. Consulate in Tijuana provided the following clarification of their protocol:
As of 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 17, we intend to continue processing H-2A cases but will need to modify our procedures in order to facilitate the social distancing recommended by health authorities.
As of this moment, the U.S. Consulate General Tijuana will prioritize the processing of returning H-2A workers who are eligible for an interview waiver. We will see first-time H-2A applicants this week, but will cancel first-time applicant appointments that have already been scheduled after March 20. We will not cancel any interview waiver appointments, and we will open additional capacity for interview waiver appointments.
As a reminder, returning H-2A workers are applicants whose H-2A visas have expired in the last twelve months and are now applying for the same visa classification and did not require a waiver the last time they applied for a visa. Please do not make interview waiver appointments for first-time applicants or applicants who require an interview every year due to law enforcement or immigration violations. First-time applications will not be processed if they are submitted as returning applicants.
Western Growers understands that while this policy is an important first step, it will not be sufficient to meet the H-2A needs of our members and the broader agriculture industry. We will continue to push the Administration to expand its protocol to provide for an adequate flow of H-2A labor to support our nation’s food supply requirements.