Central Americans face challenges when applying for work visas


HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) —Work visas are in high demand, but many are unable to successfully receive them, and some apply for asylum instead when they may not need to.  

Central Americans are less likely to receive work visas compared to those of Mexican nationality, according to the Migrant Policy Institute.

“There is a really large discrepancy between the number of Mexicans that receive work visas from the United States each year and the number of Central Americans,” said Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at MPI.   

Pierce said that some migrants are looking to get a work visa, but they are applying for asylum instead. This could make it harder for asylum seekers that have already applied to receive a court date.  

“Our asylum applications in the United States are extremely backlogged having individuals in the asylum back-log that might have tried to and qualify for work visas,” said Pierce.  

One asylum seeker from Guatemala said je has waited two years for his court date and said that corruption in Central America complicates the visa process.  

“The problem is the corruption in our countries, the people who have access to work visas are governmental personnel,” said Estuardo Cifuentes.  

Cifuentes said he was arrested and kidnapped by the Guatemalan national police and ordered to leave the country because of his sexual orientation.  

“I am seeking asylum because I received a direct order from the national Guatemalan police to leave for being gay,” said Cifuentes. 

Cifuentes started Rainbow Bridge, a non-profit organization for the migrant camps in Matamoros who were in the Migrant Protection Protocol. He said he wants to start helping in the Rio Grande Valley.  

However, Jorge De La Fuente, an immigration attorney at La Union del Pueblo Entero, said the number of work visas issued is low across the board.

“From countries like Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala work visas from these countries have decreased in the last couple of years,” said De La Fuente.  

According to MPI, 200,000 Mexicans received work visas annually while Central Americans received 5,000.  

“They need to file for you in the United States in order to bring you into the United States,” said De La Fuente.  

Cifuentes saif he will find out this August if he will be granted asylum into the United States.  

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