Changes in H-1B Visa Includes Potential Path to Citizenship: Trump

US President Donald Trump on Friday, 11 January, assured H-1B visa holders, an overwhelming majority of whom are Indian IT professionals, that his administration will soon bring changes that will give them certainty to stay in America and a “potential path to citizenship”.

Trump on Friday tweeted that his administration is planning an overhaul of US policies on H-1B visa and will encourage talented and highly-skilled people to pursue career options in the US.

Also Read: US H1B Visas To Be Given to Most Skilled, Highest Paid Workers 

Trump’s tweet comes as a good news for Indian professionals, especially in the IT sector, who currently have to wait for nearly a decade to get a Green Card or permanent legal residency.

In the first two years of his presidency, Trump administration made it tough for the H-1B visa holders over their overstay, extension and issuing of new visa to them.

The H-1B visa, most sought-after among Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

Trump’s major announcement on H-1B visas through twitter, without any further details comes as part of his known preference to attract and retain best talent in the US.

In recent weeks, he has been talking about a merit-based immigration system to reduce overall immigration to the US.

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

The number of H-1B petitions routinely exceeds the statutory cap, and among that pool of petitions, we should endeavour to select the very best for the privilege of coming to the US for work, the Homeland Security Secretary said.

Also Read: US Proposed Changes to H1B Visa To Affect Indian IT Companies

The Trump administration, she said, has stepped up its measures to detect employment-based visa fraud and abuse, but certain non-immigrant visa programmes need reform in order to protect American workers better.

‘Visa to the Most Skilled, Highest Paid Foreign Workers’

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.

Under the proposed rule, companies seeking foreign workers on H-1B visa under the Congressional mandated annual caps -- would first have to electronically register with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during a designated registration period.

Trump’s tweet, given that his administration had created an image of being anti-H-1B visa, came as a surprise to many and several H-1B visa holders from India took to social media to welcome the move.

“We see some hope. President Sir we would be very happy if you can clear the humongous Green Card backlog. You will become the undisputed leader for 1 million citizens in making,” Jyotsna Sharma tweeted.

Also Read: IT Companies Sue US Immigration Agency on Short H1B Visa Duration

“I have been here for 12 years. I came under j1 visa and then, through my scientific contributions, I earned a H1B visa. My green card process is pending for 4 years, and I have several coworkers, in similar situation. We are not criminals. We followed the rules. Help us!” one Ronald Herrera said.

“Thanks a ton for giving a hope and assurance, legal immigrants are contributing to US economy (billion dollar companies, universities, real estate etc.,) and yet waiting for decades on certainty. #MAGA #legalimmigration #H1B,” Indian techie Manofjoy tweeted.

However, former Obama administration official Leon Fresco, who has been working among H-1B visa holders for the past two years cautioned against too much hope.

“Dont get hopes up folks, as we know what has been said about DACA and actually done to DACA recipients, but if something helpful happens, be pleasantly shocked,” he tweeted.

Also Read: H1B Is a Gamble, So We’re Coming Home: Young Indians in America

(Published in an arrangement with PTI)

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