Temporary Visas



The Problem

Many victims of labor trafficking and exploitation enter the U.S. with temporary, nonimmigrant visas, but find themselves tricked into horrendous working and living conditions. The most frequent visa categories referenced on the National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline are the A-3, B-1, G-5, H-2A, H-2B, J-1, and H-1B. These workers are often lured into abusive situations by recruiters who make false promises of lucrative jobs that don’t exist, produce fraudulent contracts, or charge exorbitant fees for visa processing or transportation costs.

Temporary work visas are used in a diverse range of industries, including agriculture, landscaping, hospitality, restaurants, and domestic work. Workers believe they have no choice but to continue working for their employer due to mounting debts, fear of deportation, emotional and physical abuse, threats of harm to their families, or isolation from others. Most temporary work visas tie the worker directly to a single employer. As a result, if they leave their jobs, they lose their legal status to work in the United States and are at risk for deportation proceedings.



  • 40% of labor trafficking or exploitation cases reference temporary visas*
  • 823 victims of reported labor trafficking or exploitation cases held a temporary visa*
  • 32% of these victims worked in agriculture*

*Cases reported to the National Hotline and Polaris’s BeFree Textline 8/1/2014 - 7/31/2015

The Solution

To ensure that migrants on temporary visas are better protected from the risk of labor trafficking and labor exploitation, Polaris urges support for the following U.S. federal policy recommendations:  

  • Prohibit the application of recruitment fees to individuals who have obtained a temporary visa.
  • Require employers to provide complete and accurate contracts directly to workers in a language the worker understands.
  • Require foreign labor recruiters to register with the U.S. government and companies to use registered labor recruiters.
  • Ensure that temporary visa holders can change employers without losing their visa status.

Our Work In Action

Polaris is working closely with the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking and the International Labor Recruitment Working Group to support federal and state legislative efforts that protect workers on temporary visas from labor trafficking and exploitation.

Photo credit: Don Mason / Getty Images

Latest News

Blog post

New report spotlights how temporary work visas facilitate U.S. labor trafficking

June 5, 2018

Over the course of this year, hundreds of thousands of laborers from around the world will be invited to our shores as guest workers.

Blog post

How We Can Protect Temporary Visa Holders from Trafficking

April 21, 2016

A bill has been introduced to Congress that would require a more public reporting process for temporary work programs. Here's why we need it to pass.

Blog post

Labor Brokers and the Bait-and-Switch for Temporary Workers

March 8, 2016

A recent investigation shows how labor recruiters use false promises to entrap foreign workers. How do they get away with it?