Trump Says He's Eyeing Citizenship Path in Worker Visa Program

Cheryl Sanders
January 12, 2019

One of the most sought-after visa programs in the US, the H-1B, could see some significant changes in 2019, according to President Trump, including a potential path to citizenship for recipients of the non-immigrant visa. "We want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the US", Trump tweeted on Friday morning, hours after he returned from Texas, where he inspected the border and held a round table to make the case for Congressional funding for a border wall. The announcement comes as Trump continues to spar with Democrats over his plan for a $5.7 billion wall along the U.S. -Mexico border. The dispute, which pits the White House against Democrats in Congress, has led to one of the longest government shutdowns in U.S. history.

In November, US Citizenship and Immigration Services had proposed major changes in the H-1B application process which it said is aimed at awarding this visa to the most skilled and highest paid foreign workers. Trump had said past year that his administration plans to overhaul the program.

It was unclear what Trump meant by a "potential path to citizenship" for H-1B visa holders, who already are eligible to be sponsored by employers for legal permanent residency, which would then make them eligible to become United States citizens. Trump, a Republican, has embraced changes to the immigration system to favor educated or highly skilled people.

Doug Rand, a former White House official in the Obama administration who worked on immigration issues, said the proposed changes to the lottery selection process were at best modest and at worst could cause chaos.

Competition is tough for the temporary visas, which require a bachelor's degree.

The H-1B visa program allows US employers to hire graduate-level workers in specialty occupations, like IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, science and medicine. In 2018, the United States hit the limit on the number of H-1Bs it could issue, 65,000, by the first week of April, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Democrats call the proposed wall expensive, ineffective and immoral.

Throughout his presidency, Trump has sought to stem illegal immigration and to deport more immigrants living in the United States illegally.

The announcement of a revision in H1-B visa rules comes at a time when the USA government has reached the 21st day of shutdown on Friday, with no solution of reopening the government in the near future.

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.

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