Ciaran Staunton speaks to a group about immigration reform

President of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, Ciaran Staunton, says many Irish arriving to the United States have failed to check their working visa options before leaving home.

“People who have papers for their skills, in particular graduates, should first explore their legal options for entry into the US instead of just arriving here and hoping for the best,” said Staunton.

“A range of J-level visas are available for people with third-level qualifications and most emigrants who are suitably qualified are totally unaware of this.”

New data in the United States shows that 10 percent of the workforce is unemployed. That is close to 15 million people.

The number of undocumented people in the United States is estimated to be close to 11 million. In 2008 40,000 of these undocumented were thought to be Irish. Now the figure have risen close to 60,000.

Ireland’s property crash and the collapse of the construction industry in Ireland are thought to the reason for this sudden spike.

Staunton said that it is mainly skilled tradesmen and women without recognized qualifications who are coming over the United States.

“Lots of people who worked on building sites in the past number of years are arriving here on a daily basis but some did apprenticeships by the old-fashioned method while others have achieved their qualifications via various colleges, only some of which are formally recognized," he said.

“It’s because these type of skills fall into a potential grey area, we in the ILIR are lobbying for reform of the 1965 US Immigration Act which doesn’t formally allow bricklayers, painters, carpenters, etc to enter here legally.

“Our advice to skilled people thinking of coming here is, exhaust all your avenues for legal emigration before you travel and even if people have already arrived they should get in touch with Irish advice centers in the big cities.”