Want some good news for a change? A bill which could give Irish citizens access to thousands of US visas every year has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Once again, it was Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal pushing the buttons that lead to a unanimous voice vote in the House last week that could lead to Ireland being added to the E-3 visa program. The legislation now moves to the U.S. Senate where only one senator (Tom Cotton of Arkansas) blocked it two years ago.
Sources close to Congressman Neal and to the Irish government tell me there has been a lot of behind the scenes politicking and they are confident of a unanimous Senate vote. The bill would then be sent to President Trump and the consensus is that he will sign it into law.
If it becomes law, it opens a legal path to the United States for thousands of Irish citizens. Under the current law, only Australian citizens can apply for the 10,500 E-3 visas that are available every year. The Irish would get the ones not used by the Australians. In recent years, about half (5,500) have gone unused.
An E-3 visa means legal employment but it does not lead to Legal Residency/Green card and it is not for everyone. In order to qualify, applicants must be employed in a speciality occupation, have a legitimate offer of employment in the U.S. and possess the necessary academic or other qualifying credentials.
The Irish Government is working on a reciprocal arrangement, which would ease restrictions on Americans who wish to retire to Ireland and enable U.S. citizens to work in Ireland on a similar basis.
E-3 visas are for two years, but can be renewed indefinitely. They allow the spouses of recipients to work in the U.S., but not their children.
In order to qualify, applicants must be employed in a speciality occupation, have a legitimate offer of employment in the U.S. and possess the necessary academic or other qualifying credentials.
There’s no indication when the U.S. Senate will take up the legislation but it is being pushed aggressively by the Irish government and Irish-American leaders in Congress