Temporary work visas are intended to provide decent jobs to migrant workers while helping U.S. businesses meet their labor needs by filling mostly low-wage jobs that would otherwise sit vacant. Policymakers often refer to the migrants who come to this country as “guest workers.” But data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline shows that these guests — workers who have followed all the rules and laws and are expecting simply to earn a decent living and return home — are frequently exploited and even victimized by forced labor and other forms of trafficking. Indeed, exploitation, trafficking and abuse have become endemic to many of the visa categories.

Overall, more than half of the victims of labor trafficking reported to the Trafficking Hotline during this period whose immigration status was identified were foreign nationals holding legal visas of some kind, including temporary work visas. That is no way to treat a guest — let alone hundreds of thousands of them.

The Trafficking Hotline exists first and foremost to assist victims of human trafficking. This means people seeking help are only asked to provide information that will allow the Trafficking Hotline team to offer the best possible options for support. Data collection is secondary. As a result, information about a potential victim’s visa status is not always available. For the purposes of this report, Polaris analyzed data from the four major temporary visa programs heard about most frequently on the Trafficking Hotline. Several government agencies are involved in the issuance of these temporary work visas, including the U.S. Departments of Labor, State and Homeland Security. The complexity and opacity of the various programs makes it difficult to determine exactly how many guest workers are
in the United States on any given day. The Economic Policy Institute has estimated that in Fiscal Year 2019, more than two million temporary workers were employed, or 1.2 percent of the U.S. labor force.

Labor trafficking on specific temporary work visas: A data analysis 2018-2020 - Polaris Project, July 2022 DOWNLOAD














IOM Handbook: Protection and Assistance for Migrants Vulnerable to Violence, Exploitation and Abuse

This Handbook is intended for case managers, service providers, communities, development entities and States working to provide protection and assistance to migrants vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse, or to mitigate and reduce factors c...Read More

Paper Promises? Evaluating the Early Impact of Australia’s Modern Slavery Act

The Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) (MSA) was widely hailed as a critical first step by Australia towards tackling the global problem of modern slavery, with the government proclaiming that it would transform the way businesses respond ...Read More

Transformative Technology for Migrant Workers: Opportunities, Challenges, and Risks, 2018

Low-wage migrant workers commonly encounter abuses of their labour rights during the migration process. These abuses can include deceptive practices by recruitment agencies, underpayment, poor and unsafe working conditions, and other exploitative pr...Read More

Corporate Accountability And Liability in the Malaysian Palm Oil Industry

This document sets out the current underlying framework of law and governance that impose greater accountability and liability on businesses participating in the palm oil industry, those indirectly benefiting and profiting and those providing suppor...Read More