Nuevas Oportunidades: productive reintegration of returned migrants

The New Opportunities project addresses one of the most pressing humanitarian crises in Central America. In 2018, for example, 195,790 migrants from the Northern Triangle countries of Central America (NTCA) were forced to return to their countries of origin, which represented an increase of 38.5% compared to 2017. With a stricter policy of the United States government on illegal migration and the termination of temporary protected status, it is expected that this trend will increase in the coming years. The project is for the economic reintegration of returned migrants in Guatemala and El Salvador so they can certify the skills they acquired in the United States or Mexico and get a job or develop their own business. The project is composed of three main parts: certification, employability, and promotion of self-employment and entrepreneurship in places where there is a supporting ecosystem that includes institutional actors, mayors, universities, and private companies. 
Departamento de Guatemala, Guatemala
Departamento de Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
Departamento de San Miguel, El Salvador 
Departamento de Usulutan, El Salvador 
Departamento de La Paz, El Salvador
Departamento de San Salvador, El Salvador
Departamento de Santa Ana, El Salvador
Project duration
2018 - 2024

The project

Migrants who are forced to return to their countries of origin face various difficulties and are often excluded from the social and economic system. And although the vast majority of them do not have a criminal record, the deportees are generally perceived as criminals by their compatriots and have difficulty accessing the labour market. However, these are skilled workers with practical experience and are a great asset to the labour market that also responds to the private sector demands for experienced workers in growing economic sectors such as construction and tourism.

The project focuses on the productive reintegration of returned migrants by certifying their knowledge and skills acquired abroad in the construction and tourism sectors, reinforcing existing services (job placement, development of entrepreneurial skills), and facilitating access to the labour market or the creation of their own businesses. It works through four components, geared to achieve economic and social reintegration: evaluation and certification of skills, coaching and job placement, creation of enterprises, knowledge management, and it also facilitates intersectoral alliances.

Certification of the skills of returnees is an effective way of responding to the demand for skilled workers in the construction and tourism sectors. Not only does it create income opportunities for returnees, but the existing services are also reinforced (job placement, development of entrepreneurial skills).

On the other hand, given that returned migrants do not have access to financial instruments, the project seeks the participation of diaspora organisations to support returned migrants in the creation of their own businesses. 

Project partners

in El Salvador:

  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador
  • Ministry of Labor of El Salvador and Guatemala
  • Chambers of tourism, industry and construction
  • CONMIGRANTS in El Salvador
  • University of the East (UNIVO)

in Guatemala:

  • Guatemalan Chamber of Construction
  • Intercap
  • Municipality of Coatepeque
  • Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare

Expected Results

  • 118 new jobs created by returned migrants in their enterprises
  • 610 returned migrants increase their income
  • US$5.8 million increase in revenues
  • 18 returned migrants with fast-track enterprises
  • 130 returned migrants with existing businesses they have created
  • 518 returned migrants inserted in the labour market in an occupation related to their area of certification

Financing partners

This project is financed by the Medicor Foundation, Green Leaves Education Foundation, among other donors. It is part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, which is co-financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA.  


Nepal, Mozambique, El Salvador, Guatemala
Initial vocational education and training, Labour market insertion
Accrediting vocational skills to facilitate labour market integration
Vocational training and continuing education have been among Swisscontact’s main areas of focus for a long time. For such projects, the standard is for acquired skills to be certified so that people have a better chance at finding their way in the job market. In developing countries and emerging economies, many people do have the requisite vocational skills, but they do not have a document attesting to this experience. Swisscontact is engaged in various projects and initiatives for the accreditation and certification of vocational skills.
El Salvador
Labour market insertion
Project case study Central America: New opportunities for returning migrants
Central America is currently enduring one of the greatest humanitarian crises in its history: thousands are fleeing poverty, violence, and lack of opportunity and migrating north. At the same time, in 2020 more than 90,000 returned to their countries of origin from the United States and Mexico, and many more had been deported. Since 2016, Swisscontact has been implementing the Nuevas Opportunidades (“New Opportunities”) project for the economic and social reintegration of these returnees.
El Salvador, Guatemala
Labour market insertion
Podcast Episode on the Reintegration of Returning Migrants
Saul Diaz Ortiz, Regional Director of Swisscontact in Latin America, is addressing the unique needs of returning migrants through partnerships with individuals, communities, government, and businesses. In the podcast VOICES - Conversations on Business and Human Rights from Around the World of the Institute for Human Rights and Business, he details his experience of identifying and boosting the economy of the returning migrants' countries of origin when they are properly integrated into society.

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