The U.S. Embassy in Ireland said last week that there is no limit to the number of Irish students and graduates who can apply for the J visa that allows a recipient to live and work here for a year.
Despite previous figures that stated up to 20,000 visas would be allotted to Irish citizens wishing to live and work in the U.S. for a year, a spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin said last week, "On the U.S. side, we have not put any upper limit on the amount of people who can apply.”
However, 20,000 or 200,000 will not make much of a difference. Earlier this month a representative of USIT, a leading Irish travel agent specializing in student travel and one of the main processing agencies for the new visas, told IrishCentral that very few students were availing of the one-year visa, which has been available since last November.
According to USIT, over 3,000 Irish people inquired about the visa but very few were eligible. USIT cited confusion about the visa criteria for the lack of eligibility.
In September 2008, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin, announced the agreement with the U.S. government that would enable Irish citizens to work and travel in the U.S. for up to 12 months after which time they must return home. Reciprocally, the Irish government will allow up to 5,000 U.S. citizens to work and travel in Ireland also for a year.
Each visa holder will be free to secure employment upon arriving in the country. It will not be necessary to acquire a job prior to arrival in either country.
To qualify for the visa program, each participant must hold an Irish or U.S. passport. 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.
The State Department, when asked by IrishCentral, said they cannot break down the amount of J-one year visas have been given out this year.
As of last week, the Irish Embassy in Washington, D.C. had only issued 18 visas to American citizens but were in the process of approving another 18 or so more.
For more information on the J visas, log onto the Irish Department of Affairs website at www.dfa.ie