‘H-1B reform will be based on skill & merit’


WASHINGTON: The Trump administration is working on reforming the H-1B foreign workers visa program which will be part of a skills and merit-based legal immigration system, the White House has said.

Larry Kudlow, who is the chief economic advisor to President Donald Trump, in an interaction with reporters agreed that H-1B attracts talented professionals and companies currently are having difficulties in hiring people on H-1B visas.

“The president has laid this out. We need legal immigration. We need skills-based, merit-based immigration. Those are just a few of the issues. That would be terrific. We can’t seem to get it through Congress. But skills-based, and merit-based and not a family chain-based, I think they will be very useful,” Kudlow said.

He said the Trump administration is looking at H-1B visas.

“We’re looking at it. It’s a work in progress,” he said. Changes in H-1B visas, he said, will be part of a larger reform package.

“The thrust of that is merit-, skills-based, which is going to be very significant change. We should’ve done it years ago. The president is absolutely right (on this),” he said.

“H-1Bs and lots of other classifications of visas, we are looking at all of that stuff,” Kudlow said. The Trump administration, he said, is proposing to get rid of the lottery system for visas.

However, he did not clarify if this is for H-1B visas’ lottery or diversity visas. Trump in the past has called for doing away with the lottery for diversity visas. Of late the US Citizenship and Immigration Services is proposing to make changes in the lottery system for H-1B visas.

Kudlow said the changes in the H-1B visas do not mean an increase in its intake. Currently the US Congress has mandated 65,000 H-1B visas per annum and an additional 20,000 to those who have completed higher education from US in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“No,” he said when asked if he is proposing an increase in H-1B visas.

“I’m saying I don’t want to predict. I’m just saying we’re looking at it. It’s a work in progress and if we could start getting a serious conversation on immigration reform with the Congress, then we’ll say,” he said.

“I can’t say up. I can’t say down. It’s part of that overall package. I emphasise the president’s view on legal immigration reform. One of the pillars of that has to be skills-based and merit-based, border security, et cetera. You probably know it all,” he said.

“We would love to have that conversation and get a good immigration reform,” Kudlow said. PTI