New York Senator Charles Schumer introduced an immigration bill to the Senate on Tuesday which will potentially permit 10,000 Irish citizens, per year, to live and work in the U.S. on a new E-3 non-immigrant visa.
Described by Schumer as a “common sense bill,” if it is passed as it is currently written, undocumented Irish already in the U.S. may be eligible to apply for the program.
Schumer and Democratic Senate colleagues Pat Leahy and Dick Durbin co-sponsored the legislation, which was unveiled to the Senate on Tuesday afternoon. It was introduced as an amendment to the bill that passed the House last month which would allow for better access to employment and family-based visas for natives of Mexico, the Philippines, China and India.
"We are eager to work in a bi-partisan fashion to pass this bill at the earliest opportunity,” Schumer commented on Tuesday.
“It has already passed the House with overwhelming bi-partisan support and we hope that we will find similar support in the Senate for this common sense bill that improves the fairness and efficiency of our immigration system, while also including a mutual visa exchange with Ireland, one of America's steadfast allies.”
The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2011 would allow undocumented Irish to apply for an existing waiver of inadmissibility which exists under the current E-3 law for Australians.
“The current language enhances these waivers, although that language may not survive in the legislative process,” Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) lobbyist Bruce Morrison told the Irish Voice.
The move came after Schumer met with 20 Irish community leaders at his New York office last Friday.
The representatives had expressed dismay when the House passed its bill two weeks ago which excluded the Irish.
Schumer’s new immigration bill is modeled on the Australian E-3 visa program which was offered to Australia for its support of the U.S. in the Gulf War. The visa allows up to 10,000 Australian citizens and their spouses to immigrate to the U.S. once they secure a job offer. Under the current program citizens availing of the visa must be performing services in a specialty occupation and hold the minimum attainment of a bachelor's degree. The visa is renewable indefinitely.
During his recent May visit to New York, Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore had pledged his continued support to lobbying for the introduction of the E-3 visa.
Bart Murphy, head of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform flew from San Francisco last Friday, especially for the New York meeting.
“We know we have a great friend in Senator Schumer,” Murphy told the Irish Voice, “and we look forward to the introduction of the new bill. We will work with Irish organizations across the U.S. to bring pressure to bear on legislators to pass it.”