The changes were meant to "ensure our visa system benefits Americans and U.S. workers to the greatest extent possible and reinforces the administration's commitment to the legal immigration process", an official said on background.
President Donald Trump said Friday he would make it easier for top-skilled workers to stay in the United States and become citizens, offering uncharacteristic praise for immigrants´ contributions.
Almost 400,000 foreign guest workers, including more than 300,000 Indian professionals, are stuck in what is called H1-B limbo, their route to permanent residency and citizenship squeezed by country-specific quotes and the obsessive focus on resolving the illegal immigration issue at the expense of the legal immigration gridlock. Holders are also eligible to be sponsored by their employers for legal permanent residency, which would make them eligible to become USA citizens.
"H1-B (sic) holders in the United States can rest assured that changes are soon coming which will bring both simplicity and certainty to your stay, including a potential path to citizenship", Trump said on Twitter.
"We want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the U.S.".
Trump issued the message on H-1B amid a government shutdown which resulted from an impasse with congressional Democrats, who are refusing to fund a security package for the southwest border that includes funds for constructing a barrier, Trump's signature campaign promise.
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The proposal is created to increase the number of H-1B beneficiaries by 16 percent, or 5,340 more workers, who hold advanced degrees from American universities.
Immigration authorities have also pledged to revise the requirements to qualify for an H-1B visa in an effort to curb abuse and move to a more merit-based system. "This isn't it", Numbers USA, a civil immigration forum, said in response to Trump's tweet.
It would also streamline the application process with a new electronic registration system.
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.
The devil is in the details, said Todd Schulte, president of FWD.us, a nonprofit group which advocates for pro-immigration policies.
The H-1B visa in the United States allows employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in speciality occupations, such as technology or medicine. Silicon Valley companies are the heaviest users of the H-1B visa.