President Trump promises changes to visas for skilled immigrant workers

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…As Government shutdown becomes the longest in US history***

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he is planning changes to the H-1B programme that grants temporarily visas to highly educated immigrants, who work in specialty occupations such as technology or medicine.

“H1-B (sic) holders in the U.S. can be rest assured that changes are soon coming, which will bring both simplicity and certainty to your stay, including a potential path to citizenship,” Trump said on Twitter.

“We want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the U.S.”

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 their employers for legal permanent residency, which would make them eligible to become U.S. citizens.

The White House did not immediately comment on whether Trump was considering changes beyond those proposed in new rules issued in December by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Trump, a Republican, has embraced changes to the immigration system to favour educated or highly skilled people.

Trump’s tweet on the visa programme came amid his battle with congressional Democrats over spending legislation to fund the federal government.

Trump wants to includes 5.6 billion dollars for a wall along the border with Mexico, which he says will stem illegal immigration.

Democrats call the proposed wall expensive, ineffective and immoral. The dispute has led to a partial shutdown of the U.S. government that is now in its 21st day.

Trump, who has also sought to limit legal immigration, in April 2017 ordered a reform of the U.S. visa programme to benefit educated and highly skilled workers.

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

In 2018, the U.S. 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.

U.S. companies often use H-1B visas to hire graduate-level workers in several specialised fields, including information technology, medicine, engineering and mathematics.

When asked about Trump’s tweet, USCIS spokesman Michael Bars pointed to the administration’s proposed changes to the H-1B process, which are likely to become final later this year.

The proposal is designed to increase the number of H-1B beneficiaries by 16 per cent, or 5,340 more workers, who hold advanced degrees from American universities.

It would also entail a new electronic registration system meant to streamline the application process. 

In the meantime, the 22-day partial government shutdown became the longest shutdown in United States history, breaking a record from 1996 on Saturday.

President Donald Trump and Congress continue to dispute funding for a wall at the southern border, a proposal backed by the president.

Meanwhile, nearly 800,000 federal workers are affected — many of them missed their first paychecks since the shutdown started on Friday, according to the American Federation of Government Employees. Another one-third will experience a missed paycheck on Monday, with the rest turning up empty on Tuesday.

About half of those workers — 420,000 — are required to work without pay.

On Friday, the closure tied the longest government shutdown in history, which stretched 21 days from December 1995 to January 1996 under President Bill Clinton. A November 1995 Washington Post/ABC News survey found that respondents put most of the blame on the Republican Congress instead of the Clinton administration.

Throughout American history, government shutdowns have been a symbol of dysfunction within the government. Between 1976 and 1996, the government shut down 17 times.

In past shutdowns, federal workers have received back pay after the government resumed operating. But an unknown number of contractors are unlikely to receive compensation.

Negotiations came to a standstill this week after a tense meeting between Trump and Democratic leaders. After refusing the president’s proposal to fund a wall at the southern border, Democrats claimed the president threw a “temper tantrum” walking out of the meeting.

“It’s cold out here and the temperature wasn’t much warmer inside the Situation Room,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

The vice president denied those claims insisting the president was calm. “The president walked into the room and passed out candy,” Pence said. “It’s true. I don’t recall him ever raising his voice or slamming his hand,” Pence said.

Trump took to Twitter to call the meeting “a total waste of time.” On Thursday, the president signaled that he may declare a national emergency at the border if his administration and Democrats remain without a deal. The White House has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to explore funds in its budget to build the wall. He also canceled his trip to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland citing “Democrats intransigence on border security.”

The vice president denied those claims insisting the president was calm. “The president walked into the room and passed out candy,” Pence said. “It’s true. I don’t recall him ever raising his voice or slamming his hand,” Pence said.

Trump took to Twitter to call the meeting “a total waste of time.” On Thursday, the president signaled that he may declare a national emergency at the border if his administration and Democrats remain without a deal. The White House has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to explore funds in its budget to build the wall. He also canceled his trip to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland citing “Democrats intransigence on border security.”

Additional report from ABC