On H1-B visa, Donald Trump promises citizenship, welcomes talented, skilled people to US
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On H1-B visa, Donald Trump promises citizenship, welcomes talented, skilled people to US

The H1-B visa allows US companies to hire foreign workers in some skilled occupations. The programme has been under scrutiny and mounting restrictions since Donald Trump took office.

world Updated: Jan 12, 2019 07:36 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,H1-B visa,US citizenship
US President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington.(Reuters File)

US President Donald Trump on Friday said major changes are coming to the H1-B visa programme, which has become a popular gateway for Indians to the United States, that will bring it both “simplicity and certainty” and offer a potential path to citizenship to those holding it.

“H1-B holders in the United States can rest assured that changes are soon coming which will bring both simplicity and certainty to your stay, including a potential path to citizenship,” the president wrote on Twitter Friday, amid a partial shutdown of the federal government and negotiations to end it.. “We want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the US.”

He offered no details in the Twitter announcement.

The changes indicated are in line with a merit-based system the president has spoken of frequently, and, which, according to a set of rule-changes proposed by the administration in December 2018 will result in a 16% increase in the number of H-1B visas going to those with masters and higher qualifications enrolled in US colleges and universities; and introduce a new system for filing application, electronic registration for petitioners, according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which oversees the H-1B programme.

No explanation was available till the filing of this report on the path to citizenship. H-1B visa-holders are often sponsored by their employers for permanent residency (better known as Green Card), which is a step away from citizenship.. There is currently a huge backlog in the system, mostly impacting Indian applicants, and efforts are underway to address it. USCIS directed questions about it to the White House, and a response was awaited.

Indians are the single largest beneficiaries of the H-1B programme for highly skilled foreign professionals, accounting for more than 70% of the 85,000 visas granted annually — 65,000 to those hired from abroad and 20,000 from among foreigners enrolled in higher studies in US universities and colleges.. It has been under withering scrutiny and mounting restrictions from this administration since President Trump took office and unveiled his “Buy American, Hire American” vision to encourage local manufacturing and local employment.

Michael Bars, a spokesperson forUSCIS, said in a statement, “These proposed regulatory changes would help ensure more of the best and brightest workers from around the world come to America under the H-1B program, including up to an estimated 16 percent increase in the number of selected H-1B beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education”.

He was referring to a set of rule changes that were proposed by the administration last December to, one, introduce electronic registration of petitioners to replace the lottery system, which is intended to make the process less expensive, more simple and certain — to “reduce overall costs for petitioners and create a more efficient and cost-effective H-1B cap petition process.

And, two change the processing procedures to clear more applicant masters and higher academic qualification, which would result in an estimated increase of up to 16 % (or 5,340 workers) in the number of selected H-1B beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education.

The changes were meant to “ensure our visa system benefits Americans and US workers to the greatest extent possible and reinforces the administration’s commitment to the legal immigration process”, an official said on background.

The period for public comment ended earlier on January 2 and the the next step would be for the administration to to consider and respond to the comments, and then post the rule for final publication. “We hope this can take place as soon as possible, but as you know there is a lot of work that goes into this, and nothing has been finalized,” the official added.

H-1B visa programme allows US employers, which include Indian companies with American operations such as TCS and Infosys, to hire foreigners for speciality professions to make up for the shortage of locally available hands. But it has come under intense scrutiny from critics, including President Trump and other members of his administration, who allege its is being used to replace American workers.

H-1B visa-holders are often sponsored by their employers for permanent residency (better known as Green Card), which is a step away from citizenship.. There is currently a huge backlog in the system, mostly impacting Indian applicants, and efforts are underway to address it. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) directed questions about it to the White House, and a response was awaited.

Michael Bars, a USCIS spokesperson, said in a statement, “These proposed regulatory changes would help ensure more of the best and brightest workers from around the world come to America under the H-1B program, including up to an estimated 16% rise in number of selected H-1B beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a US institution”.

He was referring to a set of rule changes that were proposed by the administration last December to introduce electronic registration of petitioners to replace the lottery system, which is intended to make the process less expensive, simpler and certain — to “reduce overall costs for petitioners and create a more efficient and cost-effective H-1B cap petition process.

And, two, change the processing procedures to clear more applicant masters and higher academic qualification, which would result in an estimated increase of up to 16 % (or 5,340 workers) in the number of selected H-1B beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a US institution of higher education. The changes were meant to “ensure our visa system benefits Americans and US workers to the greatest extent possible and reinforces the administration’s commitment to the legal immigration process”, an official said on background.

The period for public comment ended earlier on January 2 and the next step would be for the administration to consider and respond to the comments, and then post the rule for final publication.

“We hope this can take place as soon as possible, but as you know there is a lot of work that goes into this, and nothing has been finalized,” the official added.

H-1B visa programme allows US employers, which include Indian companies with American operations such as TCS and Infosys, to hire foreigners for speciality professions to make up for the shortage of locally available hands.

Also watch: ‘Indians are very good traders, negotiators’: Trump at White House Diwali event

First Published: Jan 11, 2019 19:13 IST