Nearly 700,000 Guestworker Visas Issued in 2012

Last year, nearly 700,000 people were issued temporary visas to work in the United States, either for several years or indefinitely. About two-thirds are in categories requiring skills and/or education and one-third were given visas to work in unskilled jobs. Over the weekend, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the AFL-CIO and Chamber of Commerce had agreed on a proposal to increase the number of unskilled guestworker visas above and beyond the number already being issued, and despite lingering high unemployment rates for U.S. workers affected by these visa programs.

The table below summarizes temporary visa issuances for 2012.

Temporary Work Visas Issued, 2012
Visa Category Type of Worker Skilled or Unskilled Number
E Treaty Worker Skilled 11,000
F Student Worker Skilled 70,000*
H-1B Professional Skilled 136,000
H-2A Agricultural Unskilled 65,000
H-2B Seasonal Unskilled 50,000
J Exchange Worker Both 175,000*
L Company Transfer Skilled 62,000
O Special Ability Skilled 16,000
P Entertainers Skilled 25,000
Q Exchange Workers Skilled 2,000
R Religious Workers Both 4,000
TN Nafta Professionals Skilled 75,000*
Total     691,000
Source: State Department Non-Immigrant Visa Issuance Report, 2012.

Notes * Estimates based on official records rather than actual 2012 issuance.

These figures do not include additional visas issued by USCIS.