Today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Labor, announced a record allocation of 20,000 H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas for citizens of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Haiti – as part of almost 65,000 supplemental H-2B visas made available for fiscal year 2023. This move represents a major step that helps American businesses address the need for seasonal labor, provides a key lifeline to thousands of temporary workers, and reduces the demand for dangerous irregular migration. Additionally, the White House’s convening of a new H-2B Worker Protection Taskforce will work to address vulnerabilities in the H-2B program for the benefit of both seasonal workers and U.S. workers.
As a result of the historic allocation of H-2B visas announced today, workers from northern Central America and Haiti will have the chance to multiply their earnings and support their families and communities back home, thereby complementing the investments the United States is making in their countries to create jobs and help citizens build a hopeful future. By providing legal, temporary pathways to work in the United States, H-2B visas can provide workers a safe and predictable alternative to irregular migration. Evidence from Mexico demonstrates that the expansion of the H-2 program between 2010 and 2019 helped slash irregular migration from Mexico to the United States by one-third. Announcing this significant H-2B visa allocation at the start of the new fiscal year also benefits U.S. employers by giving them greater predictability to more efficiently meet labor demand.
USAID is proud to work with our partners in northern Central America to strengthen worker protections and enhance citizens’ ability to seek temporary work opportunities. Collaborating closely with the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, USAID has strengthened the capacity of relevant government ministries to transparently and efficiently match qualified workers to temporary labor opportunities in the United States. As a result, the United States issued a record number of H-2 visas to nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in Fiscal Year 2022, almost doubling the prior record. Additionally, with USAID’s support, the governments in all three countries reduced the time it takes them to process employer requests for temporary workers by more than 60 percent: from 42 days to 14 in El Salvador, 55 days to 20 in Guatemala, and 24 days to eight in Honduras.
These efforts expand access in northern Central America to the H-2B visa program in addition to the H-2A program for temporary agricultural workers. USAID’s capacity building efforts with governments in the region are creating a pipeline of experienced farmworkers eligible for H-2A visas, as well as mechanisms for fair and transparent recruitment. This benefits workers, their communities, and U.S. farms that rely on seasonal labor to help feed our country.
USAID is committed to strengthening worker protections in the H-2 program by providing workers pre-departure training, promoting fair and ethical recruitment, and supporting implementation of the U.S. government’s “Guidance on Fair Recruitment Practices for Temporary Migrant Workers,” which I was proud to launch at June’s Summit of the Americas alongside Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.