Irish citizens who are in college or have completed study within the last year can now apply to live and work in the U.S. for a one-year period. Details of the new program were made public last week. Up to 20,000 current or recently graduated Irish students can apply for a new bilateral J-1 visa pilot program that exists between Ireland and the U.S., and will continue to do so for the next five years. Under the program, 5,000 American citizen will be permitted to apply for work visas in Ireland. Irish students wishing to apply to for the J-1 program must do so through a legitimate sponsoring agency in the U.S. or Ireland. A full list of the authorized sponsoring organizations is available on the website of the U.S. Embassy (http://dublin.usembassy.gov). The Irish Immigration Center in Boston is one of the thousands of sponsoring agencies, and will have the relevant application form on their website (http://www.iicenter.org/) by the end of this week. Irish citizens, upon receiving a certificate of eligibility called a DS-2019 from the sponsoring agency, are required to make an appointment with the U.S. Embassy in Dublin for an interview to obtain the visa. There will be a $600 processing fee to be paid to the sponsoring agency. There is also a $180 State Department fee and a nominal fee will need to be paid to the U.S. Embassy at time of interview. It is unclear how long the whole process will take, but it is estimated to take no longer than a few months start to finish. In September, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin signed an agreement with the U.S. government to make available up to 20,000 visas for Irish citizens each year, which will allow them to work and travel in the U.S. for 12 months, after which time they must return home. It is thought that students working here legally under the program could apply for change of status if they qualified for a permanent visa category. Reciprocally, the Irish government will provide up to 5,000 work authorizations for citizens of the United States, which will permit them to work in Ireland for the same length of time. Unlike some J visas, an applicant is not required to obtain employment before arriving in the U.S. To qualify for the visa program, each participant must hold an Irish or U.S. passport if applying to work in Ireland. Each applicant must be in either post-secondary education which includes current enrollment in a third level institution, or in a course that could allow a student to go on obtain a degree, or have graduated within the preceding 12 months. U.S. citizens wishing to travel to Ireland under the new program should apply for a U.S. Working Holiday Authorization either at the Embassy of Ireland in Washington or the Consulates General of Ireland in Boston, Chicago, New York and San Francisco. U.S. applicants will be required to prove their student status. There will also be a fee in the region of a few hundred dollars charged by the embassy or consulate. Upon arriving in the U.S., Irish participants must inform the sponsoring agency of their location and job, and the agency in turn will be in contact with the visa holder every 60 days after that. The new program will not affect the highly successful J-1 student work and travel program, currently in existence, which permits students from the U.S. and Ireland to work and travel for several months every summer. Irish citizens wishing to apply can do so through the Irish Immigration Center in Boston. Contact Peggy Comfrey, director of international programs at 617-542-1900 ext. 14 or see the website on http://www.iicenter.org/. For more information contact the embassy on http://dublin.usembassy.gov. U.S. citizens may contact the Irish Embassy in Washington at Embassy of Ireland, 2234 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington D.C. 20008 or call 1-202-462-3939 for a list of consulates throughout the U.S.
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