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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

US unemployment rate falls to 50-year low

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The U.S. unemployment rate fell in September to a new five-decade low of 3.5%, while employers added a modest 136,000 jobs.

The Labor Department says that despite the ultra-low unemployment rate, which was down from 3.7% in August, average hourly wages slipped by a penny. Hourly pay rose just 2.9% from a year earlier, lower than 3.4% at the beginning of the year.

Hiring has slowed this year as the U.S.-China trade war has intensified, global growth has slowed, and businesses have cut back on their investment spending. Still, hiring has averaged 157,000 in the past three months, enough to lower the unemployment rate over time.

The unemployment rate for Latinos fell to 3.9%, the lowest on records dating from 1973.

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Trump embarrassed by TV channel

As Trump was speaking to the media after meeting Zelensky to clarify his position, MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace cut into it, saying: “We hate to do this but the President isn’t telling the truth.”

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New York, Sep 26 : US President Donald Trump was subjected to an embarrassment when the MSNBC news channel cut away from his press conference while he was speaking on the controversy surrounding him over the Ukrainian probe against former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump on Wednesday was addressing the press conference against the backdrop of impeachment proceedings announced against him by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi following allegations that he put pressure on the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to order a probe against Biden whose family has business interests there.

The allegation against Trump came to light because of a whistleblower and a transcript of the conversation between him and Zelensky in July, which has become public.

As Trump was speaking to the media after meeting Zelensky to clarify his position, MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace cut into it, saying: “We hate to do this but the President isn’t telling the truth.”

She added that Trump was trying to do it to deflect the attention from his impeachment.

According to the transcript of the telephonic conversation that has gone public, Trump is heard asking Zelensky to “do us a favour”, after the latter expresses gratitude for the military aid the US provided to his country.

Trump’s words of “do us a favour” is seen as a quid pro quo for the American military aid, because of which the impeachment proceedings have been announced.

After Wallace cut the press conference, her guest on the programme, justice and security analyst Matthew Miller, rebuked Trump for saying that Biden and his son had done wrong.

“This story has been looked at and thoroughly debunked by everyone involved,” Miller said, adding the real issue was whether Trump’s conduct is “impeachable”.

Trump is facing problem at a time when he is in New York to attend the UN General Assembly.

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Kim Jong-un receives ‘excellent’ letter from Trump

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Pyongyang, June 23 North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has received a personal letter with “excellent” and “interesting” content from US President Donald Trump, Pyongyang’s state media said on Sunday.

“After reading the letter, the Supreme Leader of the Party, the state and the armed forces said with satisfaction that the letter is of excellent content,” the Korean Central News Agency said, referring to its leader.

“Appreciating the political judging faculty and extraordinary courage of President Trump, Kim Jong-un said that he would seriously contemplate the interesting content,” it added.

The KCNA did not disclose when and how the letter was delivered to Kim, reports Yonhap News Agency.

The letter appears to be in response to the one Kim sent to Trump recently in time for the anniversary of their first-ever summit in Singapore last June.

Trump had described Kim’s letter as “beautiful” and “very warm”. He also emphasized that the relationship between them remains strong and that “something will happen that’s going to be very positive”.

The exchange of correspondence between the leaders renewed hopes for a resumption of denuclearization talks which have stalled since the breakdown of their second summit in February.

The summit collapsed as Pyongyang wanted sanctions relief as a corresponding measure in exchange for dismantling its Yongbyon nuclear complex, while Washington insisted that sanctions should remain in place until the North completely gives up its nuclear weapons programme.

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