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Trump assures ‘certainty, path to citizenship’ for H1B visa-holders

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New York, Jan 11 (IANS) Singalling his support for legal immigration, US President Donald Trump said on Friday he will change the H1-B visa system for professionals to ensure “certainty” and a path to citizenship for those on the visa.

Trump said in an early morning tweet: “H1-B holders in the US can rest assured that changes are soon coming which will bring both simplicity and certainty to your stay, including a potential path to citizenship. We want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the US.”

Indians are the biggest beneficiaries of the temporary H1-B visas, 76 per cent of which went to professionals from India last year, according to government statistics.

Caught in a controversy over his plans to stop illegal immigration that has been made to appear he is anti-immigrant, Trump appeared to be sending a message that he supports legal immigrants and opposes only those coming in illegally.

Limiting H1-B visas has been a matter of concern for India and New Delhi has taken it up with Washington as a trade-related issue.

Major US companies have warned that the limiting of H1-B visas and the long waits for permanent residence seriously affect their ability to get and retain talented staff.

Since it was only a tweet, there were no details about how he would go about making the changes.

An immigration expert expressed scepticism about Trump’s show of concern for H1-B visa-holders.

“Trump’s tweet is a distraction from the fact that the administration’s H-1B policies and its actions more broadly are actually making everything more difficult for legal immigrants across the board,” said Doug Rand, the president of Boundless Immigration, a technology company helping people navigate the immigration process.

Rand, who was the assistant director for entrepreneurship in the former President Barack Obama’s White House, said that Trump “is probably talking about two already known regulatory plans.”

These relate to a changeover to online filing of H1-B applications each April and redefining the jobs that qualify for H1-B visas, which could make it “much more difficult for lower-salary skilled workers to obtain these visas,” Rand said.

Trump announces many plans and ideas through tweets but not all of them get implemented. Trump’s tweet came the morning after his visit to the US-Mexico border on Thursday to promote his plan for building the wall to prevent illegal immigration, crime and drug-smuggling.

The border wall or barrier is opposed by Democrats, who have refused to allocate funds for it in the budget.

This has led to a standoff with Trump, who has refused to accept a budget without funding for the wall and as a result there has been a partial shutdown of non-essential parts of the federal government now in its 20th day.

The media, the Democrats and activists blur the distinction between illegal and legal immigrants and assert that Trump is anti-immigrant, which his tweet appears to aim to dispel.

Addressing the nation on Tuesday to build support for the wall, Trump mentioned an Indian-American police corporal, Ronil Singh, who was killed by an illegal immigrant.

One of the immediate concerns for H1-B visa-holders is the Trump administration’s plan to end permission for their spouses – who are on H-4 visas – to work, which had been granted by the administration of former President Barack Obama.

Another is the path to permanent residence and eventual citizenship because of the current minimum wait of 10 years for Indian professionals to get their green cards.

Trump may need the support of Congress, where the Democrats control the lower chamber, to make these changes.

The Democrats are likely to demand concessions for illegal immigration in return for supporting the changes.

Trump has called for abolishing the immigration quotas for relatives of citizens and moving to a merit-based system similar to that of Canada and Australia.

There is a 20,000 limit on the number of green cards that can be given each year to people from India and most countries.

In November, the Trump administration announced changes to the H1-B visa system to give preferences to applicants with advanced degrees.

A total of 85,000 H1-B visas are available each year under regulations imposed by the Congress. Of these, 20,000 are reserved for those graduating with advance degrees from US universities.

Immigration authorities have reportedly intensified their crackdown on H1-B visa fraud and some Indians as well as Indian companies have been caught in it.

The authorities are also reported to be closely examining applicants from India and demanding more documentation.

Rand said that under Trump, request for more evidence for H1-B applications has increased by 45 percent and the number of denial rate by 41percent.

He added, “It’s no wonder that many companies and immigrants believe that the H-1B program is under siege.”

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

America

Lady Gaga slams Donald Trump for government shutdown

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Lady Gaga and US President Donald Trump (File Photo)

Las Vegas, Jan 21: Singer Lady Gaga has slammed US President Donald Trump for the ongoing government shutdown.

During her show here, Gaga took out a moment to criticise Trump and urged him to put the government back in business, reports variety.com.

“And that the f****ng president of the United States could please put our government back in business. There are people who live paycheck to paycheck and need their money.”

The “A Star is Born” actor then called out Vice President Mike Pence, whose wife Karen is under fire for accepting a job at a school that excludes the LGBTQ community.

She said: “And to Pence, who thinks it’s acceptable that his wife work at a school that bans LGBTQ, you are wrong. You say we should not discriminate against Christianity; you are the worst representation of what it means to be a Christian.

“I am a Christian woman and what I do know about Christianity is that we bear no prejudice and everybody is welcome. So you can take all that disgrace Mr. Pence and you can look yourself in the mirror and you’ll find it right there.”

The government closed on December 22, 2018 after Trump was refused funding for a southern border wall.

IANSi

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Most millennials unhappy with Donald Trump: Survey

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US President Donald Trump (File Photo)

New York, Jan 17: Over 60 per cent of millennials in the US are unhappy with President Donald Trump, and only 37 per cent view him favourably, a new survey has revealed.

Conducted by the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, the survey looked at opinions of 1,000 Americans aged 18 to 37.

Trump’s performance was rated on key issues like gun control, immigration policies and possible 2020 presidential candidates.

Nearly 70 per cent do not approve of Trump’s behaviour on Twitter saying that he tweets too much.

“Republican millennials like Trump and like the job he’s doing as president, but two-fifth of them want the president to tweet less,” said John Cluverius, Assistant Professor at the varsity..

“It goes to show that even among his staunchest supporters, there’s concern about the President’s personal approach to the office,” Cluverius said.

On the issue of gun control, 60 per cent expressed support for increasing restrictions on the purchase and carrying of firearms, while 21 per cent said the current restrictions were enough as 18 per cent even favoured fewer restrictions.

On immigration, millennials demonstrate far less liberal attitudes than on the other issues.

The poll also asked millennials about potential 2020 presidential candidates. On that, 54 per cent said they will support whoever the Democratic nominee be, compared to 27 per cent who said they would vote for Trump.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders were the most liked politicians by the millennials.

“Young Americans continue to be sceptical, pessimistic and disillusioned by the state of the country and its future course, and more than any previous generation of young Americans, they identify very strongly with the Democratic party,” Cluverius noted.

The poll has also revealed that although millennials make up almost half of the total users on Twitter and Facebook, only 37 per cent view these social media platforms favourably, while 50 per cent view it unfavourably.

“Younger millennials may be switching to platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, but I think this finding reinforces the idea that while lots of people use these services, they don’t make people happy,” Cluverius said.

IANS

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RBI cautions government over NPA spike in MUDRA loans

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New Delhi, Jan 13 The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has raised a red-flag on the spike in non-performing assets (NPAs) under the government’s flagship scheme to support micro enterprises in the country — the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana.

According to Finance Ministry sources, RBI has cautioned the ministry that the scheme might turn-out to be the next big source of NPAs, which have plagued the banking system.

The central bank has flagged that bad loans under PMMY have risen to Rs 11,000 crore.

As per the annual report of PMMY, 2017-18, total disbursements under the scheme stood at Rs 2.46 trillion in FY 18.

Out of this, 40 per cent were disbursed to women entrepreneurs and 33 per cent to social categories. More than 4.81 crore micro borrowers have benefited through PMMY during the year FY2017-18.

The PMMY was launched on April 8, 2015. Under the scheme, banks are required to finance micro and small entrepreneurs for up to Rs 10 lakh. Loans can be granted under three categories – up to Rs 50,000 under ‘Shishu’; Rs 50,001-Rs 5 lakh under ‘Kishore’ and between Rs 5,00,001 and Rs 10 lakh under ‘Tarun’ category.

In addition, RBI’s caution comes at a time when the country’s financial system in reeling under sevier stress due to the IL&FS crisis which continues to hurt banks with impairments, the most recent case being IndusInd Bank.

On January 9, IndusInd Bank in its latest quarterly earnings result statement without naming the IL&FS Group, said: “Advances granted to various companies and SPVs belonging to a Group in the infrastructure sector against certain identified cash flows and pertaining to specific assets are ‘Standard’ as at December 31, 2018 on the basis of the conduct of the accounts till date.

“Since October 1, 2018, certain governance and management changes have taken place in the Group and measures to turn it around through a Resolution Plan are underway.”

The bank said it was monitoring the developments and implications of the ‘Resolution Plan’.

“In the interim, as a prudential measure, the bank has made a contingent provision of Rs 255 crore on these ‘Standard’ assets during the quarter ended on December 31, 2018, in addition to an amount of Rs 275 crore made during the quarter ended on September 30, 2018. Total provisions attributable to this exposure is Rs 600 crore,” the statement added.

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