Facing heat for shutdown over immigration, Trump courts H1B visa workers

However, Trump’s outreach to H1B visa holders directly contradicts his previous stand on the issue. Under Trump, it has become harder for American companies to hire foreign workers on H1B visa


Dhairya Maheshwari

US President Donald Trump has said that he is planning changes to the H1B visa regime which could pave way for a "potential path to citizenship" for foreign nationals working in the US.

"We want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the U.S," President Trump tweeted on Friday.

The announcement came a day after Trump returned from his visit to the US-Mexico border in Texas, amid the partial government shutdown that entered its 22nd day on Saturday, the longest in American history.

The President has been demanding $5.3 billion for the construction of the border wall with Mexico, which he says would stop the flow of "undocumented immigrants" and "drug trafficking" from the souther border. The pledge to build the wall was one Trump's key election pledges that resonated with his supporter base.

He has refused to sign the budget until it includes funds for the border wall.

The Democrats, who are in majority in US Congress after the mid-term polls, have refused to sanction the funds, instead proposing only $1.3 billion be used for the wall, as per news website The Hill. The failure to arrive at a political consensus has affected over 8 lakh government employees, who have been working without pay due to the inability to work out a payment plan in the budget.

No clarity on changes to H1B

However, besides a tweet, Trump or the White House have not elaborated on the President's proposal, as per Reuters.

Under the current rules, H1B, a non-immigrant visa, is not intended as a path to citizenship, and on paper remains a temporary guest worker permit to fill up skilled positions in medical and IT professions, to name a few. However, it has been popular among foreigners vying for American citizenship, who view it as means to ultimately get an American passport.

Trump's Friday's tweet contradicted his earlier positions on the H1B visa regime. He was seen as cracking down on the the skilled worker visa, having signed an executive order, "Buy American, Hire American," in April 2017 that made it more difficult for companies to hire H1B workers.

The revised H1B rules under Trump have been a matter of concern for the Indian government and a sticking points between the two allies. The H1B visa issue also featured in the discussions between the two governments during the first ever 2+2 Dialogue in September 2018 in New Delhi.

Hugely popular among Indian tech workers, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reported in October 2018 that approximately 75 per cent of H1B visa holders were Indian citizens, as of then. Several Indian tech giants having operations in the US, including Infosys and Wipro, have expressed concerns over the amended rules in the past.

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