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Just Published: Law Library of Congress Report on Guest Worker Programs

A report titled Guest Worker Programs was recently added to the list of reports posted on the Law Library of Congress website under “Current Legal Topics” where you can also find a range of other comparative law reports on various topics.

Migrants returning from Mississippi where they had been picking cotton. Highway near Neches, Texas, Anderson County (Oct. 1939). By Lee, Russell, photographer; Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The Guest Worker Programs report is based on a study conducted by staff of the Global Legal Research Center (GLRC).  The report describes programs for the admission and employment of guest workers in fourteen selected countries:

It also provides information on the European Union’s Proposal for a Directive on Seasonal Employment, the Association Agreement between the European Union and Turkey regarding migrants of Turkish origin, and the Multilateral Framework of the International Labour Organization on the admission of guest workers. The complete report is also available in PDF.

The report includes a comparative analysis and individual chapters on each country, the EU, and relevant international arrangements. It provides a general overview of a variety of immigration systems, and addresses issues such as eligibility criteria for the admission of guest workers and their families, guest workers’ recruitment and sponsorship, and visa requirements.  The report further discusses the tying of temporary workers to their employers in some countries; the duration and the conditions that apply to switching employers; the terms, including the renewability, of guest workers’ visas; and the availability of a path to permanent status.

Additional topics addressed are the existence of caps or quotas on guest worker visas under the different systems surveyed, and the consideration of a market-based method for determination of such limits. A general bibliography of selected recently published English-language materials on immigration policies is appended.

Near Holtville, Imperial Valley, California. Migratory labor housing during carrot harvest (Feb. 1939). By Lange, Dorothea, photographer; Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

According to the study most countries surveyed give preference to the admission of highly-skilled workers. Most countries similarly limit employment of guest workers to specific labor sectors based on market needs. Some countries, however, give preference to admission of their ethnic compatriots, and others to the admission of immigrants from neighboring countries. The study indicates that immigration policies fluctuate from country to country often reflecting individual socioeconomic conditions and current needs. Immigration policies appear to be influenced also by the size of existing legal and illegal immigration communities and by the pressure exerted on governments to provide immigrants with services, including health care in some of the surveyed countries.

Guest workers must meet general immigration admission criteria as well as additional conditions. According to the study such conditions include meeting standard age and health criteria, signing a commitment to adhere to countries’ values, having been invited by an approved employer, and proving the acquisition of health insurance or competence in the language used in the country.

We invite you to read our report and learn about the experience of other countries in this area of law.

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