Trump says changes coming on high-tech visas

President Donald Trump's administration wants to change the foreign worker visa program to include a pathway to citizenship that's more direct.

U.S. president Donald Trump on Friday pledged to reform the H-1B visa process, a skilled temporary guest worker programme widely used by Indian professionals, saying he wants to "encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the US" and provide "a potential path to citizenship".

H-1B visa programme allows USA employers, which include Indian companies with American operations such as TCS and Infosys, to hire foreigners for speciality professions to make up for the shortage of locally available hands.

H-1B visa-holders are often sponsored by their employers for permanent residency (better known as Green Card), which is a step away from citizenship.

US President Donald Trump said Friday that he will change the H1-B visa system for professionals to ensure "certainty" and a path to citizenship for those on the visa.

The president's softening on the legal immigration through H-1B issue did not please the American tech workers constituency that has campaigned against the H-1B guest worker program citing widespread misuse, and which supported him in hope that he will curtail it.

"We want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the USA", he added.

Previous changes the administration made in 2018 to the H-1B application process favor applications with advanced degrees. The president has threatened to call a national emergency if Congress doesn't reach an agreement to fund his border wall.

It would also streamline the application process with a new electronic registration system. That would force companies to consider unemployed USA workers for entry-level jobs instead of bringing in workers from overseas.

Trump campaigned for president on a promise to crack down on immigrants, who he said took jobs away from U.S. citizens.

The partial government shutdown over the impasse between the White House and congressional Democrats regarding the wall funding entered its 21st day Friday - tying the longest ever.

But the visa programme has also drawn criticism for being used heavily by foreign outsourcing companies that squeeze out American firms.

Silicon Valley and India have both pushed hard for a more generous visa system for skilled foreign employees, saying they are indispensable in powering the tech industry, but critics charge that native-born Americans should have priority for the generally well-paying jobs.

Vanessa Coleman