The U.S. State Department will speed up approvals of H-2A farmworkers by waiving interviews for many applicants. 

An Agri-Pulse report says the move is applauded by many of the country’s major ag groups, who were worried that embassy cutbacks due to the coronavirus outbreak would leave farmers without the labor they need to run their operations. 

Late last week, the State Department said consular officers have the option to go ahead and “waive the visa interview for first-time and returning H-2A applicants who have no potential ineligibility.” 

The State Department’s expansion of the waiver process also quadruples the period in which returning workers may qualify to have their interview waived. 

That timeframe used to be a year, but applicants who’ve had visas expire anytime during the last four years now won’t need to be interviewed if they are applying for the same visa classification and didn’t need an interview the last time they applied. 

A State Department document says the new approval process will only be valid during the current calendar year. 

The Western Growers’ Association issued a statement saying that the move will ease the flow of guest workers into the country during a time when our farmers are doubling their effort to provide the country with safe, healthy, affordable, and abundant food.