SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Foreign workers are hard to come by nowadays, even though the Biden administration has allowed travel restrictions the former administration imposed on some temporary workers to expire, a concern shared by industries ranging from agriculture to high tech..

“The biggest problem remains the limited operation of U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, which have remained closed or are issuing (work) visas on emergency bases only, due to the ongoing COVID health crisis,” said Diane Hernandez, an employment and immigration attorney based in Colorado. “Currently, the U.S. Department of State is only prioritizing petitions of immediate relatives and other family members of U.S. citizens, or for diplomats and certain critical workers in the medical or food production industries.”

According to Hernandez, depending on the country of origin where the temporary workers live, it can be difficult or impossible to get an appointment at a consulate to get the actual visa allowing them to enter the U.S.  

The U.S. issues different worker visas depending on a person’s skill and education. High skilled employees who work in specialty occupations, for example, are granted H-1B visas. Foreign workers in the H-2A program are allowed to fill temporary agricultural jobs.

“Many workers will have to continue to wait until the pandemic slows to the point that the U.S. Department of State reopens its consulates, at which time, wait times may be very long as all the individuals with backlogged cases apply for appointments at the same time,” Hernandez says. 

And Hernandez stated unless the U.S. begins processing foreign workers faster the economy will suffer.

“We’re going to see that in the price of strawberries this summer, it’s things like that, so it does affect all of us unfortunately,” she said.

Visit the homepage for the latest exclusive stories and breaking news about issues along the United States-Mexico border.