H-2A employer says lifting the travel ban for South Africa will have little impact


H-2A employer says lifting the travel ban for South Africa will have little impact

The Biden Administration is lifting travel restrictions for nearly 7,000 seasonal foreign workers coming from South Africa because of the spread of the omicron variant in the U.S.

Ryan Haffner is with U.S. Custom Harvesters Inc. and uses the H-2A visa program for his operation in Kansas. “We’ve been going through this multiple times now since the beginning of the pandemic.  It seems like in a roundabout way we’ve built a program for working around this for South Africa and some other countries but mostly South Africa,” Haffner says.

The Biden administration imposed the travel ban in November but announced December 24 it would remove the ban.  The majority of the workers arrive in the U.S. in February, March and April.

Haffner tells Brownfield his operation hasn’t been impacted by the restriction because his employees don’t return to the U.S. until late spring. “We really, at this point, have avoided really any disruptions,” he says. “It was just the potential of having issues, but since they’ve lifted the travel ban already, it looks ok for us. Had the travel ban still been in place, we would’ve used the essential worker exception to get them here.”

And, he says, “I think we can work around almost anything that’s thrown at us going forward because we’ve kind of got this system and precedence that we’ve used the past two years to get the workers here.”

The travel ban lift comes after more than 60 ag organizations wrote the Biden administration and a group of bipartisan lawmakers sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of State and Homeland Security asking for the exemption.