One of the most sought-after visa programs in the USA, the H-1B, could see some significant changes in 2019, according to President Trump, including a potential path to citizenship for recipients of the non-immigrant visa. "We want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the U.S".
The statement comes amid heated debates over the Trump administration's immigration policy and the president's plans to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
Michael Bars, a USCIS spokesperson, said in a statement, "These proposed regulatory changes would help ensure more of the best and brightest workers from around the world come to America under the H-1B program, including up to an estimated 16% rise in number of selected H-1B beneficiaries with a master's degree or higher from a USA institution".
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).
What's changed already: The federal government has already made changes to its H-1B approval practices with significant results, part of a broader effort to bridal the legal immigration system. The president's message on January 11 suggests that the White House has reviewed at least one proposal and has decided on a course of action.
The proposal is created to increase by 5,340, or 16 per cent, the number of H-1B beneficiaries who hold advanced degrees from American universities.
Competition is tough for the temporary visas, which require a bachelor's degree.
Democrats say the wall project, which carries a total price tag of more than $20 billion, is expensive, ineffective and immoral. The dispute has led to a partial shutdown of the USA government that is now in its 21st day. H-1B visa holders can apply for a green card to obtain permanent residency - but even a green card does not equate to citizenship.
US companies often use H-1B visas to hire graduate-level workers in several specialized fields, including information technology, medicine, engineering and mathematics.
Throughout his presidency, Trump has sought to stem illegal immigration and to deport more immigrants living in the United States illegally.
The Trump administration, she said, has stepped up its measures to detect employment-based visa fraud and abuse, but certain non-immigrant visa programmes need reform in order to protect American workers better.