Irish may get access to thousands of new United States visas

Many Irish citizens who hope to someday work and live in America may now get the chance after the United States House of Representatives passed a new bill which could see thousands of new visas being issued each year.

The E-3 work visa is a two-year visa that can be renewed indefinitely and can also be applied to spouses. It is currently reserved for Australian nationals only.

The visas that would be delegated to Irish citizens will be taken from an unused portion of 10,500 visas that are issued in Australia annually. If the bill is passed in the Senate, it will mean that up to 5,000 Irish citizens will be eligible for the E-3 scheme.

After a 15 minute debate in the House of Representatives, the bill was unanimously passed. Democrat Richard Neal and Republican Jim Sensenbrenner both sponsored the bill, with the latter saying that the introduction of the bill would continue to support the link with "one of our oldest allies."

Mr Sesenbrenner told the house, "The United States was built on hard work and the determination of immigrants – many of them who hail from Ireland. Through their perseverance, they have enabled this country to grow and prosper. I believe in the value and opportunity that comes with legal immigration. I am pleased to have authored this legislation to make the process more efficient for one of our oldest allies, and add to the great legacy of cultural diversity celebrated our country."

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He also stressed that the introduction of this new visa scheme would make the immigration process easier for Irish people who want to work in America and Americans who wish to work in Ireland, saying "This modest proposal would give Irish nationals the opportunity to work in the US under the non-immigrant visa category of the E-3 visa, previously reserved only for Australian nationals. Ireland, in the meantime, has proposed a reciprocal work visa specific to US nationals so that those wanting to live and work in Ireland can more easily do so."

To apply for the visa, an applicant must provide proof of employment in the US. Academic and work references are also needed, such as a bachelor's degree or 12 years or more of employment in a speciality field.

If passed, potential applicants will apply through the US consulate, ultimately avoiding the lengthy processing times that come with US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

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