Guest worker – definition and meaning

A guest worker is someone who has permission to work temporarily in a foreign country. In most cases, the person is doing a specific job to help meet a company’s or nation’s labor requirement. For example, during WWII the U.S. launched the Bracero program. The bracero program allowed Mexicans to work in the country for a set period.

During the Bracero program, low-skilled or unskilled workers could enter the country to work in primary activities. In fact, many of them worked in agriculture. This program, however, eventually had to be terminated because employers had been exploiting the guest workers.

According to

“Guest worker, foreign national who is permitted to live and work temporarily in a host country. Most guest workers perform manual labor. The term guest worker is most commonly associated with its German translation, Gastarbeiter.”

Guest worker programs – USA

Since then, new guest worker programs have been created in the United States. For example, the H-2A program allows farmers to employ foreign workers temporarily. However, they can only take them on them if they meet two conditions.

First, there is nobody in the country available, willing, or capable of doing the job. Second, the guest worker doesn’t affect the conditions and wages of American workers.

Guest Worker - definition and some examples
Many farms, hospitals, and other businesses in the USA, UK, and Germany could not survive without guest workers.

The H-1B visa allows companies to recruit people will special skills in special areas. The US needs to import experts in, for example, IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, and medicine.

To be eligible for the H-1B Visa, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Guest workers can work up to six consecutive years with an H-1B Visa if their extension applications are successful.

The H-2B visa, on the other hand, allows companies to hire foreign workers for non-agricultural labor for a limited period.

A guest worker can be of any skill or profession. What they do, or their specialization depends on the need of the company or nation.

If there is a shortage of medical personnel, the country will invite foreign healthcare professionals to come in and work.

The word guest worker originates in the 1960’s. It comes from the German word Gastarbeiter. The term emerged after the labor imbalance following World War II in West Germany. Turkish workers moved to West Germany to rebuild the country’s infrastructure.

Video – Turkish-German guest workers

After WWII, the West German economy boomed. During that time, there was a serious shortage of workers. Many guest workers from Turkey came to work in West Germany as part of the Turkish-German Guest Worker Treaty.