Irish workers may get access to thousands more US visas
The US House of Representatives voted to extend the E-3 visa scheme to include Irish citizens during a debate in Congress on Wednesday evening.
While it still requires unanimous approval by the Senate before the Bill will be passed, the House of Representatives vote marks an important step in Ireland's attempt to secure more visas for Irish people who want to live and work in the US.
The E-3 visa scheme is only available to Australians at the moment, with 10,500 visas made available to them each year. However, only half of these are usually taken up, and Ireland want the remaining, unused visas to be made available to Irish people.
But this would require Congress to pass legislation for it to happen.
Speaking prior to Wednesday's vote, Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, who tabled the motion alongside Rep. Richard Neal, said: "This modest proposal would give Irish Nationals the opportunity to work in the U.S. under the non-immigrant visa category of the E-3 Visa, previously reserved only for Australian nationals.
"Ireland, in the meantime, has proposed a reciprocal work visa specific to U.S. nationals so that those wanting to live and work in Ireland can more easily do so.
"The E-3 visa is one of the most efficient U.S. visa options. Applicants outside the United States may apply directly at a U.S. consulate, thus avoiding lengthy processing times with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
"The visas are granted for 2 year periods (renewable indefinitely), and the spouses of E-3 visa holders are permitted to apply for employment authorization documents."
He continued to say: "I urge my colleagues to support the legislation and yield back the balance of my time."
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney welcomed the news in a statement on Twitter on Wednesday night.
"This is a really positive development for future generations to travel to USA," Coveney said.
"Still work to do but thanks to our team in the Embassy of Ireland USA and John Deasy TD for their tireless work and thanks to Representative Richard Neal and all our friends in US House of Representatives."