How Will the 'Work-at-Home' Notion Impact Our Foreign Workforces?

By David North on March 18, 2020

We have been hearing strong suggestions that, where possible, people should work at home. How will this play out vis-a-vis our various legal and illegal foreign work forces?

The answer is not only unevenly, but spectacularly so.

At one of the spectrum — the high-tech workers in the H-1B program — most can work at home with something approaching ease.

At the other end — the farmworkers in the H-2A program — no one can work at home.

Here's our take on some of the various alien workforces and their abilities to work at home, from the most to the least likely.


  • All EB-5 (immigrant investors, who do not have to work at all, but can)
  • H-1B high-tech workers
  • Many J-1 exchange visitors


  • Optional Practical Training (subsidized) workers
  • H-4 relatives of H-1As
  • Non-immigrant investors on E visas, usually operators of small businesses

Near Impossible:

  • Illegal aliens (a small minority of whom do white-collar work)
  • TPS (Temporary Protected Status) beneficiaries, mostly blue-collar workers
  • H-2B non-ag, non-skilled workers
  • H-2A farmworkers, who are also subsidized

Thinking about these workforces as the coronavirus spreads, we should not only be aware of them as possible carriers, but also, in some cases, as people coming from relatively virus-free environments being thrust into more dangerous situations than they would have experienced at home.

As is the case with so much of life, the virus is more likely to adversely impact the less privileged members of society than those of us who can — and do — work at home.