Thousands of work visas could be freed up for Irish citizens in the US as visa bill returns to Congress
Having met a stumbling block a number of months back, the bill is back on the agenda.
Thousands of work visas could potentially be freed up for Irish citizens in the United States after a bill to add Ireland to the E-3 visa programme was reintroduced at US Congress on Tuesday.
The bill was reintroduced by Richard Neal, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, on Tuesday but has a long way to go before passing into law, as it will need to be endorsed by the House of Representatives and will require unanimous approval from the US Senate first.
The bill, which was previously approved by the House of Representatives and backed by former Speaker for the House Paul Ryan, failed to achieve the unanimous support it required in the Senate before it broke for Christmas and was placed on hold by Senator Tom Cotton.
The issue was raised by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with Donald Trump during his visit to the White House in March and it is believed that Trump and his Vice President Mike Pence have since spoken to Cotton on the issue.
The E3 visa is a work visa that allows a holder to work for two years in the United States, and also provides for a spouse to join the holder.
The bill to extend the scheme to Irish citizens could potentially free approximately 5,000 for Irish immigrants living in the United States.
10,500 E3 visas are available to Australians each year, but as uptake on the visas is low enough, it was proposed to give the remaining visas to Ireland. After concern about the extension of the scheme to Ireland was expressed in Australia, Irish nationals would only be able to apply for the visa once Australian nationals had done so first.
Currently, in order to qualify for an E3 visa, applicants must meet the following criteria:
- he or she must have a legitimate offer of employment in the US
- the position he or she is coming to fill must qualify as specialty occupation employment
- he or she must be an Australian citizen
- he or she must have the necessary academic or other qualifying credentials
- his or her stay must be temporary, and
- if required before the alien may commence employment in the specialty occupation, he or she must have the necessary license or other official permission to practice in the specialty occupation
In an effort to improve the prospects of the bill becoming law, the Irish government is believed to be working on a reciprocal arrangement which would ease restrictions on Americans who wish to retire to Ireland and enable US citizens to work in Ireland on a similar basis to what is proposed for Irish citizens in the United States.