Agricultural workers, including H-2A and H-2B, are considered essential workers.
To maximize the available workforce, the Departments of Agriculture and Labor announced a joint effort to identify H-2A and domestic workers who would be available and willing to transfer to another employer.
On March 26, the State Department revised an initial announcement that it would stop processing all visas and clarified that as essential workers, H-2A and H-2B visas would continue to be processed and prioritized. To further facilitate this, consular officers can, if they so choose, now waive the visa interview requirement for first-time and returning H-2 applicants who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility.
This expansion also increases the period in which returning workers may qualify for an interview waiver. Applicants whose previous visas expired in the last 48 months, and who did not require a waiver of ineligibility the last time they applied, do not need to be interviewed in-person if they are applying for the same visa classification as their previous visa.
In addition to embassy processing issues, H-2A employers may also have additional COVID-19 questions related to processing issues at DOL, state workforce agency housing inspections, the potential quarantine of workers and many other potential issues. These documents are excellent resources:
H-2A employers like all agricultural employers are seeking guidance on worker safety, social distancing and other issues. For general workforce safety issues go here.