Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan confirmed that a US congressman plans to introduce a new bill allowing thousands of Irish people to live and work in the US on an “E3” visa.
Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin will table legislation that, if passed, will allow visas for “a limited period of time for Irish people.” It is believed he will first introduce the bill in the Senate, where he will petition for as many as 10,500 visas for Irish citizens.
Minister Flanagan met with congressman Sensenbrenner, a former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, during his current visit to Washington, DC.
Speaking to the Irish Times following the meeting the Minister said that he does not expect any further progress on legislation to help the “undocumented” Irish currently living and working in the US without visas, but the Irish government would be seeking the help of both Republicans and Democrats in the US to ensure that this new bill is passed.
“I believe that it is important that there is an opportunity for debate and discussion,” he said.
“I acknowledged that it is early days and that the route is something of a long road. Nevertheless, it is an important and welcome initiative and we will be seeking support from both sides of the aisle in order to ensure its debate and ultimate passage.”
Speaking about the legislation he is set to introduce, Sensenbrenner said: “The United States was built on the hard work and determination of immigrants – many from Ireland – and the fruits of their labor has enabled this country to grow and prosper.
“I believe in the value and opportunity that comes with legal immigration, and I’m pleased to work on legislation that would make the process more efficient for one of our oldest allies, as well as add to the great legacy of cultural diversity celebrated in America.”
The latest legislation resurrects Irish hopes of the availability of E3 visas, a topic previously sidelined two years ago when the Republican-led House of Representatives failed to pass an immigration bill in which a provision was made for 10,000 E3 visas for Ireland.
The previous bill contained wide-reaching legislation on immigration reform, offering a new arrangement for Ireland similar to that of Australia, but Sensenbrenner’s Bill will introduce the topic of E3 Irish visas as a stand alone issue.
Australian citizens, along with their spouses and children, are the only people currently eligible for the E3 visa, which allows applicants to work in the US in a specialty occupation (a position for which a bachelor’s degree is required). Introduced in 2005, the visa offers 10,500 Australians the opportunity to work in the US each year.
Minister Flanagan was visiting the US capitol to brief US politicians on the current situation in Northern Ireland, where the multi-party government is in crisis talks to avoid collapse. Flanagan said that the talks were at a “most critical juncture” and urged US politicians to stay involved in the process.
He also spoke to the US Secretary of State’s envoy for Northern Ireland, former US Senator Gary Hart, advising him to visit Belfast in the next few weeks.
The solidarity and support of the US on the journey to peace in Northern Ireland continues to be of immense value http://t.co/UeFy6vzAyf— CG Ireland Boston (@IrelandBoston) September 30, 2015
— IrishForeignMinistry (@dfatirl) September 30, 2015