Thousands of Irish graduates seeking to come to the US on the highly popular 12-month work experience J-1 program will be anxiously awaiting new negotiations on the visa program.

The five year pilot program is set to expire in October and as yet there has been no announcement to renew it.

The Irish Embassy, however, has confirmed negotiations are underway.

“Discussions between the Embassy and the U.S. State Department are currently underway with a view to ensuring that suitable arrangements are put in place for continuation of the Program beyond October,” they said in a statement.

US sources say a new deal could be announced soon, and there are hopes that the plan could even be extended to two years if the US State Department agrees.

The graduate J-1 visa is different to the student one, which allows undergrads come to the US for summer-long working vacations.

The Irish government and the US State Department put the J-1 graduate visa together in 2009 after major efforts by the Irish side to make America more open. It is a reciprocal arrangement.

To qualify, an applicant had to:

· Be a citizen of Ireland.

· Be a bona fide post-secondary college/university student (enrolled and participating) or a recent graduate.

· Provide proof of sufficient financial resources, prior to the issuance of a Form DS-2019, to support themselves throughout their exchange visitor program and for their return home.

However, the opportunity presented by the end of the program may be to extend it for a two-year period by having the student renew after one year for a further year.

Many students have been unable to get long term jobs because of the one-year limit, which many employers dislike.

A leading immigration expert told IrishCentral that the new visa, if it comes, could be turned to Ireland’s advantage. ”I see no reason why it could not be extended to two years if that were done in the right way,” he said.

The extension of the visa will likely be be one of the first issues new US ambassador-designate Kevin O’Malley will face when he arrives in Dublin.