One of the most sought-after visa programs in the USA, 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.
The president added that his administration aims to encourage talented and well-qualified people to pursue their career goals in the United States.
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the H1-B visa permits USA employers to hire temporary foreign workers with at least a bachelor's degree, or equivalent specialized work experience, to fill needs not met by the American workforce. H-1B visa holders can apply for a green card to obtain permanent residency - but even a green card does not equate to citizenship.
H-1B holders are now eligible to apply for and receive lawful permanent resident status, a.k.a. a green card.
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.
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Some Trump advisors, pandering to this nativist constituency, have been leery of the H-1B program, claiming that it brings in sub-standard low-paid foreign guest workers who take jobs from American professionals. "This isn't it", Numbers USA, a civil immigration forum, said in response to Trump's tweet. But it's unclear whether the revisions he has in store will put the minds of the 85,000 immigrants brought to the US on skilled work visas each year at ease. The president's message on January 11 suggests that the White House has reviewed at least one proposal and has decided on a course of action.
Trump has also derided visas granted to family members of United States residents or citizens as "chain migration", and backed a Republican proposal in 2017 that would have slashed legal immigration in half.
The United States grants 65,000 H-1B visas every year and an additional 20,000 visas for those with a master's degree or higher.
The proposed changes could result in a higher percentage of visas going to American tech companies, according to some experts. If enacted, it would require employers to enter an online registry for each worker they want to hire using an H-1B visa before the application period opens.