Notice to H2 Agents and Petitioners, (March 26, 2020)

We appreciate your patience as we continue to make changes that will allow us to process H-2 visa applications, which are essential to the economy and food security of the United States. The Department of State, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has expanded the categories of H-2 applicants who can be adjudicated without an in-person interview. This will enable us to process more visas in the coming days through two major changes:

1. We have received authorization to grant interview waivers to applicants whose H-2 visas expired within the last 48 months (instead of the normal 12). These cases should be scheduled as IW/returning worker appointments now. Any applicant with derogatory information during the screening process must be interviewed in person. If such applications are submitted, their cases will be held for administrative processing (refused under INA 221(g)) until such time as we are able to resume interviews.

Applications that meet this new rule may be scheduled immediately as returning workers (H2-IW).

2. We have received authorization to grant interview waivers to applicants who have not previously received an H-2 visa, or whose last visa expired more than 48 months ago. These applications should be scheduled as H-2/first time appointments. Any applicant with derogatory information during the screening process must be interviewed in person. If such applicants apply, their cases will be held for administrative processing (refused under INA 221(g)) until such time as we are able to resume interviews.

First-time applications that were already submitted will now be issued or refused (under 221(g) for administrative processing) under this change. Local agents will be notified in the coming weeks to collect these passports as visas are approved or denied.

Again, we emphasize that applicants must not go to the Applicant Service Center/Centro de Atencion al Solicitante (ASC/CAS) or the Consulate. All application packets (which means a barcode sheet, current photo, and passport) should be delivered to the ASC/CAS by the agent. Essentially, all applications will be handled using the normal process for IW cases. Applicants need not travel to the processing consulate for their appointment since there will be no need for their presence until further notice. Additionally, lodging and public health restrictions may be problematic for large groups.

Remember that there are several consulates in Mission Mexico processing H2 visas. Checking appointment availability in Yatri for each of these consulates will help you find the earliest available appointment.

Frequently Asked Questions

H-2 Visa Operations in Mexico During COVID-19

 

Q: Is Mission Mexico processing H-2 visa applications?

A: While only emergency and mission critical visa cases are currently being processed, H-2 has been designated as a mission critical category. The H-2 processing posts in Mission Mexico are still accepting H-2 applications, but our ability to process them is limited and our operational posture may change at any time given the current health pandemic. Appointments will be made available through the normal website and processed as long as a post remains operational. We will prioritize the processing of returning H-2 workers who are eligible for an interview waiver.

Q: What are the criteria for an interview waiver?

A: Certain H-2 applicants qualify for an interview waiver under the INA. That includes applicants who had a visa in the same category which expired in the last 48 months (this is a temporary extension of the normal 12 months). Applicants with prior immigration or other lawful violations will generally not qualify for an interview waiver.

Normally, all applicants who did not have a previous visa that meets the requirements above would have needed an interview. However, we will temporarily be able to grant interview waivers to some applicants who have not had an H-2 visa in the past 48 months. For this category, only applicants who do not have previous immigration or other lawful violations and who have not been refused a visa before may be processed at this time.

Q: How can I determine which workers will require an interview?

A: As a general practice, we encourage H-2 petitioners, agents, and recruiters to have frank conversations with their workers to understand their situation and past

immigration history in order to produce more consistent results and reduce processing times. Even if a worker’s situation conforms with the interview waiver criteria noted above, they generally will not be granted an interview waiver if they:

  • Have been unlawfully present inside the United States after April 1, 1997.
  • Have been arrested or convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. (Note: Traffic infractions and fines that did not involve an arrest would not meet this definition.)
  • Have been arrested for an alcohol-related offense (such as DUI) within the past five years, unless they have received clearance from a panel physician since the arrest.
  • Have been granted a waiver of ineligibility under 212(d)(3)(A) in the past.

Q: I only see appointments for Interview Waiver cases. Will you accept applications from non-interview waiver eligible applicants?

A: We are processing as many cases as possible as interview waiver cases. Our capacity is significantly reduced, and this will impact how many appointments we can offer.

Do not bring any applicants to the ASC/CAS or the Consulate. Due to health concerns, we cannot have them come in physically to either location. Instead, Agents and Representatives should bring the barcode sheet, passport, and a current photo of each first-time application to the CAS. This package should look exactly like a returning-worker/IW application, but please keep applications bundles physically separated into IW and first-timer groups.

We will keep you informed of the status of these applications. You should not expect visas for these cases to be issued on the normal schedule. If we are able to issue a visa, the responsible agent will pick it up according to the normal process. If we are unable to issue a visa, the passport will be returned as a refusal under 221(g).

Q: My worker meets the criteria for an interview waiver but was refused 221(g) and needs an interview. How do I schedule that appointment?

A: Consular Officers retain the discretion to call any applicant for a consular interview to address the applicant’s eligibility for a visa. We cannot offer interviews at this time and will be working on rescheduling applicants who need one at a later date.

Q: What will happen to people who need a waiver of an ineligibility?

A: In light of the current drawdown in services and the inability to interview these applicants in person, cases with associated derogatory information will be suspended and refused under INA 221(g) until the resumption of visa interviews.

Employers seeking workers should anticipate that applicants with visa ineligibilities will not be issued even if they were previously issued after an in-person interview or granted a waiver of an ineligibility.

Petitioners, employers, and recruiters are encouraged to vet workers closely to ensure they are likely to be issued without a need for an interview.

Q: What if the original visa holder is no longer available to work?

A: In some instances, U.S. employers may substitute a worker with an individual who may ultimately qualify for an H-2 visa.

To substitute a worker who has not been admitted into the United States, the petitioning employer must provide written notification to the consular section. This notification must name both the worker who was originally issued the visa (or named on the petition) and the worker who will be replacing him or her.

Consulates in Mexico that regularly process H-2 visas will notify their petitioners and agents of the new procedures to implement these changes.

Q: How long will this be in effect?

A: This is a temporary action due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures will end no later than December 31, 2020.