No changes to US H-2B plans, Canada puts restrictions on foreign national travel

Published on
March 24, 2020

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, there are no changes at this time to the current plan to add 35,000 visas to the country’s H-2B temporary worker program.

That announcement initially came prior to the coronavirus pandemic that’s shut down several sectors of the U.S. economy. Over the weekend, the U.S. enacted bilateral agreements with Canada and Mexico to shut down the borders for non-essential travel, which includes tourism and recreational travel, in an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19. After that move, it was initially in doubt as to whether the H-2B program expansion would continue as planned.

Some work is continuing on the H-2B program, which grants temporary visas for workers in seasonal, non-agricultural businesses. That includes seafood processors.

What may slow the process down, though, is the decision the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services made on Friday, 20 March, to not accept new requests for premium processing of I-129 petitions due to the pandemic. USCIS, though, will still process a previously accepted request. The I-129 is a form employers fill out petitioning for a nonimmigrant worker.

Meanwhile, in Canada, the country has put in restrictions for foreign nationals arriving through airports. However, the nation will allow foreigners traveling to Canada as temporary workers in agricultural and seafood industries to still come to the country.

Those entering the country will need to isolate for the first 14 days after their arrival. They also do not need to travel to Canada immediately. According to a 20 March news release from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, the country will announce when the exemptions will take effect.

The department added that processing times on applications to the foreign worker program may be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak due to increased processing times. 

"While we continue to accept applications, service disruptions and restrictions due to COVID-19 may have an impact on processing times and the current posted processing times may not be accurate," the department said. 

“We’ve heard the call from our fish and seafood sector and we’re responding,” Canadian Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan said in a statement. “These exemptions mean local processors on both coasts will have access to the workers they need to keep feeding Canadians and global citizens with healthy, high-quality food sources. These are unprecedented times and we will continue to work across government and at all levels to ensure Canadians are safe and the economy is supported.”  

Photo courtesy of BalkansCat/Shutterstock 

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