Government processing of forms for temporary agricultural workers got a lot faster in early May as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State (DOS) have launched e-approval for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, for the H-2A classification, which is used for temporary agricultural workers. The procedural change means USCIS will now send H-2A petition approval information to DOS by the end of the next business day.
E-approval replaces a Form I-797 approval notice and also allows consular posts to proceed with processing an H-2A nonimmigrant visa application and also proceed with conducting any required interview.
In adopting the new e-approval process, USCIS and DOS have a number of goals in mind. In its May 9 release on the new process, states goals include:
- A reduction in possible delays for U.S. employers looking to employ H-2A agricultural workers
- A reduction in the amount of paperwork routed between USCIS and DOS
- A replacement of the current paper-based USCIS / DOS notification process with the updated electronic process to make the overall visa process more efficient for customers
- A provision of greater efficiency and greater consistency in the transmission of information to DOS consular posts.
The new e-approval process, which doesn’t include charging additional fees for employers, still includes USCIS’ current practice of updating My Case Status online upon approving a case and mailing approval notices to petitioners.
Also coinciding with the launch of the new e-approval process, USCIS also announced it will begin using pre-paid mailers that are provided by petitioners in sending out receipt notices to H-2A temporary agricultural workers, which is a change from standard processing at USCIS service centers. Previously the service centers only used pre-paid mailers only for final decision notices.
With the pre-paid mailer change, petitioners can now submit of the mailers as a means of expediting the receipt notice and the final decision notice. With the pre-paid mailer processing change, H-2A temporary agricultural worker petitioners still hold the same requirements for their use with other forms and classifications.
Currently, pre-paid mailers provided by H-2A petitioners are primarily used to send receipt notices. USCIS send the final decision notice in a pre-paid mailer only if the H-2A petitioner has provided a second pre-paid mailer.