The State Department agreed on Thursday to grant H-2A workers from South Africa an exemption from the US travel ban, which takes effect on Saturday.
The national exemption will also apply to certain H-2B visa holders working in food processing and other areas of the food chain. The travel prohibition is intended to limit the spread of a COVID-19 strain found in South Africa.
“The H-2 program is important for the US economy and food security and is a national security priority,” according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Therefore, we intend to continue processing H-2 applications for individuals who provide temporary work or services necessary for the U.S. food supply chain, as permitted by mail resources and local government restrictions.”
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The Communication states that workers who already hold approved visas should follow procedures provided by the US Embassy or Consulate.
About 5,000 H-2A workers, many of them agricultural equipment operators, come from South Africa each year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, which appealed to the Biden administration for an exemption.
“Many of these South African H-2A workers have unique skills, and American farmers expect to arrive on time when planning their upcoming growing seasons,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall in a letter to the departments of state and home security.
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