Senator Schumer’s Irish visas survive the Senate test - battles on to conservative House
Schumer promises new legislation to allow 10,500 Irish citizens to come to US on E-3 visas
New York Senator Charles Schumer vowed last week that if Congress passes a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013, it will include a special provision to allow more than 10,500 Irish citizens to come here each year to legally live and work under a new E-3 visa.
Speaking to the Irish media on a conference call last Friday, the day after an amendment by Iowa Senator Charles Grassley to kill the provision in the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill failed, Schumer said he’s determined to ensure that Irish citizens will be able to legally come to the U.S. once again thanks to the “Schumer visas.”
“The Schumer visas are going to be a part of the immigration bill that I am going to be very proud of,” he said.
“It has been a lifelong goal of mine to make sure that we have a permanent program for Irish immigration, not one that’s there for a few years and then expires which has occurred previously,” he added, referring to the previous Donnelly and Morrison Irish visa programs.
“I think [the Schumer program] is a better program than any of the others, the Donnelly visa, the Morrison visa … unlike other Irish visa programs which I helped pass, this is permanent so we won’t have to come back and keep doing it.”
The provision to expand the current E-3 visa rules is included in page 734 of the comprehensive reform bill authored by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” in the Senate.
E-3 visas are currently only available to citizens of Australia and allow for holders and their spouses to work in the U.S. for two years. The visas are renewable indefinitely, and applicants must be coming to work in a “specialty occupation” that requires at least a bachelor’s degree.
However, Schumer’s expanded E-3 provision in the Senate bill greatly broadens visa availability for the Irish, who only need to possess the equivalent of a high school degree or, in the previous five years, two years of work experience in a field that requires that as a minimum.
“This is a program that brings in Irish citizens of every level of education, so it’s just not limited to the very high end people,” Schumer said.
“The proposal has bipartisan support and was agreed to by the Gang of Eight,” whose members also include Republicans John McCain of Arizona, who has led past immigration reform drives in the Senate, and Marco Rubio of Florida, whose support is seen as crucial for getting more conservative members to back the reform effort.
Grassley feels the Irish don’t need a special avenue to legally come to the U.S., Schumer said.
“I explained to him that it’s one of the largest groups in America that really can’t avail themselves of the [current] immigration law, because so many of the Irish came in several generations ago and don’t have immediate family members here,” Schumer added.
As the Grassley amendment was easily defeated during Senate Judiciary Committee deliberations on the comprehensive bill, Schumer is “pretty certain” that his Irish E-3 visa will survive when the bill arrives on the Senate floor for a full member vote next month.
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