Wednesday, June 19, 2024

US Embassy, consulates to minimize services due to pandemic fears

The United States Embassy and consulates in Mexico began limiting services in response to the Covid-19 global pandemic on Tuesday until further notice.

The facilities will not shut down completely but will modify essential services to comply with the practice of social distancing.

“The U.S. Embassy and consulates will continue to provide essential consular services to U.S. citizens as well as emergency visa services,” said the U.S. State Department in a statement posted on March 16.

Routine passport and notarial services were to be minimized as of Wednesday, and citizens who already had appointments scheduled after that day will be asked to reschedule them for later dates.

Visa services will be suspended at the embassy in Mexico City and all consulates except for the one in Monterrey, Nuevo León. The consulate issued a statement late Tuesday saying that it would still process non-immigrant H-2 visas but modify its procedures to limit human contact as much as possible.

“The U.S. Consulate General Monterrey will prioritize the processing of returning H-2 workers who are eligible for an interview waiver. Because limited interview appointments will be available, we may cancel some first-time applicant appointments that have already been scheduled,” the statement read.

The H-2 visa is critical to the U.S. agricultural sector, as farmers need the temporary workers to harvest their crops. The program provides a legal framework by which around 200,000 foreign workers work in U.S. fields every year.

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) said that a drop in the number of H-2 visa workers could lead to food shortages and economic hardship for farmers.

AFBF president Zippy Duval said that the State Department’s initial move to halt all visa applications in the country threatened U.S. farmers’ “ability to put food on America’s tables.”

The second quarter, from April to June, is the busiest time of year for contracting temporary farmworkers from Mexico. U.S. Labor Department statistics show that nearly 40% of workers contracted through the H-2 visa system arrive to work in the months of March and April.

“We fully support the administration’s efforts to protect the public during this health crisis. … We have urged [the U.S. government] to find safe, practical ways to admit farm laborers as emergency workers for visa purposes while still protecting public health. Failing to do so will impact our ability to provide a healthy, affordable, domestic food supply,” he said.

The U.S. Embassy said that emergency services are still available by calling 81-4160-5512 from Mexico or +1 (844) 528-6611 from the United States. Citizens can also keep up with the State Department’s coronavirus information here.

Mexico News Daily

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