Trump touts plan to change visas for skilled foreign workers

President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington Thursday Jan. 10 2019 after returning from a trip to the southern border

President Donald Trump said on Friday he is planning changes including a possible pathway to United States citizenship to foreigners holding H-1B visas, issued temporarily to highly educated immigrants who work in specialty occupations such as technology or medicine.

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.

The H1-B visa program allows US companies to hire foreign workers in some skilled occupations. Because the current system imposes a seven per cent per country quota on allotment of Green Cards or the Legal Permanent Residency (LPR), countries such as India and China, with large population of potential or aspiring immigrants, have to wait long years to become U.S. residents.

Trump tweeted Friday that those who hold the temporary H1-B visas can "rest assured" because changes are coming that will bring "both simplicity and certainty to your stay, including a potential path to citizenship". "In the annual battle for H-1Bs between IT outsourcing companies and tech companies seeking longer-term workers, this rule would probably help the latter", Doug Rand, co-founder of Seattle startup Boundless Immigration and a former immigration policy official in the Obama White House, said in November. As a requirement, employers can't offer an H-1B petition to a foreign worker if there are Americans vying for the job.

Previous changes the administration made in 2018 to the H-1B application process favor applications with advanced degrees. Trump has refused to sign on to a bill unless it includes $5.6 billion to build a wall along the country's southern border to prevent illegal immigration by migrants.

When asked about Trump's tweet, US Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesman Michael Bars provided a statement about a formal proposal in December for changes to the H-1B process, which are likely to become final later this year.

The H-1B is non-immigrant visa that allows USA employers to hire graduate-level workers in specialty occupations, like IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, science and medicine. The president has threatened to call a national emergency if Congress doesn't reach an agreement to fund his border wall.

Immigration authorities have also pledged to revise the requirements to qualify for an H-1B visa in an effort to curb abuse and move to a more merit-based system. The dispute has led to a partial shutdown of the USA government that is now in its 21st day.

While it was unclear what prompted Trump´s tweet, The Washington Post on Friday ran a front-page article on how tech workers are increasingly moving from the United States to Canada due to the hassle in obtaining H1-B visas.

Last month, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told lawmakers that the USA should "endeavour to select the very best" among the applicants under the H-1B foreign work visa programme.

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