Published: Sat, January 12, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Trump promises changes to visas for skilled workers

Trump promises changes to visas for skilled workers

USA president Donald Trump on Friday pledged to reform the H-1B visa process, a skilled temporary guest worker programme widely used by Indian professionals, saying he wants to "encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the US" and provide "a potential path to citizenship".

Hundreds of thousands of foreign workers working in the United States on H-1B visas may soon be granted a path to citizenship, according to President Donald Trump.

"We want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the USA", he added.

Indians are the biggest beneficiaries of the temporary H1-B visas, 76 percent of which went to professionals from India past year, according to government statistics.

Limiting H1-B visas has been a matter of concern for India and New Delhi has taken it up with Washington.

The real estate mogul ran for president as a hardliner on immigration and has previously vowed to crack down on H1-Bs by encouraging reporting of visa fraud and insisting that businesses first hire Americans.

Since it was only a tweet, there were no details about how he would go about making the changes. "This isn't it", Numbers USA, a civil immigration forum, said in response to Trump's tweet.

The statement comes amid heated debates over the Trump administration's immigration policy and the president's plans to build a wall along the United States border with Mexico.

Democrats call the proposed wall expensive, ineffective and immoral.

This has led to a standoff with Trump, who has refused to accept a budget without funding for the wall and as a result there has been a partial shutdown of non-essential parts of the federal government now in its 20th day.

The H1-B visa program allows USA companies to hire foreign workers in some skilled occupations. As such, given that green card holders are eligible for naturalization, H-1B recipients are already able to obtain citizenship-it is unclear if Trump intends to shorten this path.

Trump may need the support of Congress, where the Democrats control the lower chamber, to make these changes.

The Republican president has often said he wanted an immigration system that favoured educated or highly skilled people.

It's unclear what Mr. Trump meant exactly, as simplifying a path to citizenship for such visa holders would nearly certainly require approval from Congress, and the White House has made no such suggestion in its latest border security funding proposal, or any other public offer. Each year, only 85,000 H1-Bs are issued to for-profit companies-a limit that has not been revised since 2005. Gates has gone so far as to suggest a green card should be stapled to foreign students who graduate with distinction from USA universities.

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