December 2014 Update on IOM Haiti Grant


Published: January 2015

Background

Our initial grant to support the International Organization on Migration (IOM) pilot project to give Haitians access to seasonal work in the United States was made with the understanding that the decision to disburse the second tranche of funds would be made based on two conditions:

  1. The identification of U.S. employers planning to hire 100 Haitian workers.
  2. Evidence that the workers will be able to obtain H-2 visas.

We met with International Organization for Migration (IOM), Protect The People (PTP), and Center for Global Development (CGD) representatives in November 2014 to discuss progress towards these goals.1 Following the meeting, they submitted a revised budget and an update on their progress:

Conditions for the disbursement of the second tranche of funds

Our understanding is that program staff do not anticipate any structural problems with Haitian H-2A visa access, and that the attendant risks to the program have been reduced, though as with all US visa applications, universal access cannot be guaranteed in advance and individual applicants may be rejected.4 We take this to indicate that the second condition for the disbursal of the second tranche, “evidence that the workers will be able to obtain H-2 visas,” has been met.

Our understanding is that the first condition, “the identification of U.S. employers planning to hire 100 Haitian workers,” however, has not been met, though program staff report confidence that at least 100 placements will eventually be found.5 IOM and PTP have identified a pipeline of 11 interested employers, with three of the employers who have expressed strong interest seeking a total of ~130 employees.6 We had hoped that employers for 100 Haitian workers would already have been fully contracted prior to the disbursal of the second tranche, but we see the progress towards recruiting employers as reasonably strong, and we would still guess that the project is more likely than not to get 100 or more placements. (We would guess with more confidence that the program will be able to secure at least some smaller number of places.) While we would obviously prefer that the formal criteria had been met, our overall expected value for the number of placements made in 2015 remains near 100, though perhaps erring somewhat on the lower side (e.g. 80).7

Additionally, our initial criterion seems to have been impossible to meet: our current understanding is that employers do not receive final confirmation from the Department of Labor that they will be able to hire H-2A workers until 30 days before the employees would be required to start work.8 Accordingly, the expectation that employers would have formally committed to taking Haitian workers during 2015 prior to the disbursement of the second tranche of funds was unrealistic. We have not investigated the source of our misunderstanding in depth, but as far as we know, IOM staff did not raise this issue during our initial discussions around setting the conditions for the disbursal of the second tranche of funds, nor did we recognize the need to inquire about it.

Budget updates

The project was slightly under budget for the first 4 months (which the IOM had originally planned to end on December 5, 2014), so we were able to grant a “no cost extension” to allow the first tranche of funding to continue through the end of December.

The revised budget indicates a number of changes to the plans for the project:9

  • At the end of December 2014, the project will be over budget by approximately $30,000, and the overall budget for the second phase has been altered to recoup those costs.
  • Funding for “Community Support and Training” in the sending areas during Phase II is scaled back from $139,000 to ~$54,000.
  • A new “educational exchange” component, which will bring a few Haitian workers to visit potential employers in the U.S. as part of the employer recruitment process, has been added for ~$47,000.
  • Staff expenses are projected to rise by roughly $50,000 due to a few different changes (adding part of a program officer, going over budget and adding a month of salary for a program manager, reducing the time for which a community mobilizer will be hired).
  • Many line items within the operational budget for Phase I changed, with only a limited overall effect (an increase of ~$10,000).
  • Several line items in the budget for monitoring and support of migrants during their time in the U.S. were altered, with the overall impact of reducing that part of the budget from ~$95,000 to ~$68,000.

By design, the overall project budget remains unchanged at $1,490,504, and the second tranche ($1,039,850) is now scheduled to last through the end of November 2015 (an additional month).10

Other updates

The only other major update to our understanding of the project was learning that the duration of H-2A visits might be shorter than we had anticipated. We had assumed that H-2A participants would make $10,000 more than if they stayed in Haiti, which is slightly more than half the $19,000 difference in annual income between a year-round H-2A worker and an average Haitian farm worker. We had not investigated average stay durations, but expected them to be less than a year, and chose $10,000 to be somewhat conservative (and to reflect the possibility that the workers who eventually come to the US might have higher-than-average counterfactual wages in Haiti).

However, on average H-2A workers stay for less than half of a full year – approximately 5.5 months on average for the workers recruited by the North Carolina Growers Association – and workers recruited by the IOM program may have shorter-than-average stays.11 If, hypothetically, Haitian H-2A workers were to only average 4-month stays, the expected benefits per person would fall to ~$6,000 and the total transfers to Haitians due to the project in the first year would fall to less than half of the project cost.12 On the other hand, this calculation is largely speculative, and the Haitian workers could end up with longer average stays than those recruited by the North Carolina Growers Association (though we would not guess this to be the case).

Regardless, we continue to believe that the possibility of starting a sustainable program of Haitian access to the H-2A program justifies the overall investment in the project. Conditional on success in initially reaching approximately 100 Haitian workers – which we think has become more likely due to the project’s progress – our assessment of the likelihood that the program will be sustainable in the long run remains unchanged.13

Conclusion

When we initially made this grant, we established two conditions for the release of the second tranche of funding:

  1. The identification of U.S. employers planning to hire 100 Haitian workers.
  2. Evidence that the workers will be able to obtain H-2A visas.

While the second condition was met, the first condition was not, and we now consider it to have been unrealistic.

Overall, we see the risk that the project fails to arrange H-2A work for roughly 100 Haitians as much reduced relative to when we granted the first tranche, and we have decided to grant the second tranche of funds.

Supplementary documents

In March 2015, we received the following documents from IOM:

At IOM’s request, we redacted the names of specific farmers and consultants in the interim report and are not posting Annex 1, which contains the agenda and participant list for the November 2014 stakeholder meeting.

In June 2015, we received a progress update, available here, with notes from our discussion here.

In August 2015, we received a revised budget, available here, covering the period through the end of November 2015. We anticipate publishing a more substantive narrative update by the end of 2015, in concert with a decision about whether to grant further support for the project.

Sources

Document Source
Clemens 2011 Source (archive)
Email from Dmitry Poletayev (IOM) on December 10, 2014 Unpublished
GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with IOM, PTP, and CGD staff, November 14, 2014 Source
IOM H-2A December Status Update Source
IOM H-2A December Status Update – Annex 1 Unpublished
IOM H-2A Presentation, November 14, 2014 Source
IOM H-2A Phase 2 Budget Modification Source
IOM Project Budget Source
  • 1.

    See GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with IOM, PTP, and CGD staff, November 14, 2014 and IOM H-2A Presentation, November 14, 2014.

  • 2.

    IOM H-2A December Status Update

  • 3.

    IOM H-2A Phase 2 Budget Modification

  • 4.
    • Email from Dmitry Poletayev (IOM) on December 10, 2014: “The project partners have consulted with officials at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince about the visa interview process and understand that each individual applicant for the H-2A visa must establish personal credibility and knowledge of the job offer in the United States in order to be approved for a H-2A visa. IOM is also paying careful attention to the selection of workers in agricultural communities to ensure that only qualified workers that are highly motivated to return and make a contribution to their community of origin are put forward for an interview at the embassy.”
    • GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with IOM, PTP, and CGD staff, November 14, 2014: “When the program began, there were several possible barriers to its success: the Department of Homeland Security could have removed Haitian access to the H-2 visa program, U.S. employers could have been uninterested in hiring Haitian workers, and the Haitian government may have been unable to expedite the issuance of proper documentation for Haitian H-2A workers. Based on the IOM and PTP’s progress so far, they believe these risks are greatly reduced, and Haitian workers will be able to access the program in 2015 if Good Ventures continues funding.”
  • 5.

    IOM H-2A December Status Update: “From August to December 2014, the project team identified more than 50 agricultural employers hiring H-2A workers in the Unites States. They have been briefed about the project, informed about the possibility of hiring Haitian workers and invited to attend the stakeholder workshop that took place in Haiti (3-4 November 2014). From this pool of 50 employers, 20 employers, agents and employer associations, have expressed serious interest in either hiring H-2A Haitian workers in 2015 or receiving Haitian representatives for the educational exchange in early 2015.
    The project team has narrowed its search to 11 employers interested in hiring Haitian H-2A workers in early 2015. From these, 4 employers are in the process of sharing specific job order information detailing the profiles of workers they need. Nine employers, agents and employer associations are interested in receiving leaders of Haitian agricultural associations for an educational exchange in early 2015.
    The project team is confident that the planned target of 100 workers will be achieved - and very likely surpassed - as employers complete job orders for specific growing seasons in 2015. A farm labor contractor based in Santa Maria, California has already shared the need to hire 100 H-2A workers for a strawberry harvest in March-April 2015, emphasizing their interest in Haitian workers. Another company in Idaho is working with us on the logistics of bringing in Haitian workers. The team is closely following up with all interested parties, assisting them with tailored information packages to help make a final decision.”

  • 6.
    • IOM H-2A December Status Update: “The project team has narrowed its search to 11 employers interested in hiring Haitian H-2A workers in early 2015. From these, 4 employers are in the process of sharing specific job order information detailing the profiles of workers they need. Nine employers, agents and employer associations are interested in receiving leaders of Haitian agricultural associations for an educational exchange in early 2015.
      The project team is confident that the planned target of 100 workers will be achieved - and very likely surpassed - as employers complete job orders for specific growing seasons in 2015. A farm labor contractor based in Santa Maria, California has already shared the need to hire 100 H-2A workers for a strawberry harvest in March-April 2015, emphasizing their interest in Haitian workers. Another company in Idaho is working with us on the logistics of bringing in Haitian workers. The team is closely following up with all interested parties, assisting them with tailored information packages to help make a final decision.”
    • IOM H-2A December Status Update – Annex 1 identifies the 11 interested employers and gives worker counts for three.
  • 7.

    This is substantially more conservative than the estimate of program staff, who report: “The project team is confident that the planned target of 100 workers will be achieved - and very likely surpassed - as employers complete job orders for specific growing seasons in 2015. A farm labor contractor based in Santa Maria, California has already shared the need to hire 100 H-2A workers for a strawberry harvest in March-April 2015, emphasizing their interest in Haitian workers. Another company in Idaho is working with us on the logistics of bringing in Haitian workers.” IOM H-2A December Status Update

  • 8.

    “Requesting H-2A workers is a bureaucratic process involving multiple U.S. government agencies. Employers are not able to start the process for H-2 visas for specific employees until 60-75 days before the date of need (when the worker should arrive in the US to start work). The first step in the process is for an employer, employer association, or agent to submit a job order to the state workforce agency, which reviews the request to determine whether U.S. workers could fulfill the job. Once the state determines that U.S. workers are unavailable, it sends the job order to the federal Department of Labor (DoL) to be certified. This certification states the number of visas approved for the employer. When DoL certifies the job order, the employer/association/agent can then fill out a I-129 form to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requesting the same number of visas for consideration at a specific embassy where workers will be interviewed. DoL does not certify the number of visas that employers can request until 30 days before the employees are needed. Also, the U.S. embassy may approve or deny any worker a visa depending on a number of factors related to the credibility of the visa interview. Accordingly, it is not possible to secure H-2 visa slots far in advance of when the workers would be arriving.” GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with IOM, PTP, and CGD staff, November 14, 2014

  • 9.

    IOM H-2A Phase 2 Budget Modification

  • 10.

    IOM H-2A Phase 2 Budget Modification reports slightly lower figures because it excludes $15,000 each from the first tranche and the second tranche. Those funds are for “USAIM Overhead & Administrative Oversight,” and are taken off the top by USAIM before it passes on the rest of the funding to the IOM. See IOM Project Budget.

  • 11.
    • GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with IOM, PTP, and CGD staff, November 14, 2014: “It is likely that the 100 workers will not all come to the U.S. at once. Employers request the number of workers that are needed meet their workforce gaps. Given the fact that Haitian workers are new to many US employers, it is likely that an employer would wish to start with a small number (5-20 workers) to assess skills and other aspects of having a new crew from a country other than Mexico or Jamaica. If the first experience with a new crew is positive, it is common for an employer to request the same or a larger group of workers in the future. Additionally, the first small group of workers can train more workers in their associations upon return to Haiti, which might make requesting larger groups more attractive to employers.
      H-2A visas only allow a worker to come to the U.S. for a maximum of 10 months. Some employers want workers for a full 10 months, but many employers request workers for shorter amounts of time (e.g., a few months during each of the seeding, planting, weeding, and harvesting seasons) because it can be more difficult to get the 10-month requests approved. Currently, the North Carolina Grower’s Association is the largest user of H-2A workers and the average contract for its workers is about 5.5 months. If a worker is requested for multiple short contracts instead of a full 10-month contract, the worker must go home between the last day of the contract and the first day of the next contract. The IOM and PTP could possibly prioritize visas for the workers with longer contracts.”
    • The largest employer listed in IOM H-2A December Status Update – Annex 1 is looking for 100 workers for the strawberry harvest in southern California, which we would expect not to last year-round, though we have not confirmed that.
  • 12.

    Clemens 2011 estimates that a year-round H-2A worker (which is not allowed – H-2A visits are capped at 10 months) would net their family an additional $19,000: “Each H-2 worker admitted would typically raise the income of a Haitian family by $19,000 per year. This arises from the vast difference in the returns to labor between Haiti and the United States. The typical unskilled agricultural wage in Haiti is just over US$1,000 per year.
    The typical wage of an unskilled H-2A agricultural worker in the United States is roughly US$20,000 per year.” Dividing by 3 (based on a 4-month hypothetical average stay/12 months per year) would suggest gains per person of $6,333. Assuming 100 people participate, total transfers would be ~$633,000, compared to an overall project budget of ~$1,400,000.

  • 13.
    • See our initial consideration of that possibility here.
    • GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with IOM, PTP, and CGD staff, November 14, 2014: “The IOM is aiming for the program to be sustainable after outside funding ends by transitioning full responsibility to the Haitian government.
      IOM has already worked with the Haitian government to develop various procedures and responsibilities; this has helped develop the government employees’ capacity. For example, IOM worked with the government to develop the interview criteria to be used for workers applying for the H-2A visas. By the end of 2015, IOM believes the government will be very familiar with the H-2A visa process. However, the capacity of the Government of Haiti to manage the H-2A migration process independent of IOM and PTP’s technical support is currently unclear. As the project develops in 2015, IOM and PTP will have a better understanding of how the Haitian government ministries cooperate with one another and the Haitian consulates in the US to enable a circular migration process for Haitian workers.”