I very much welcome the passing of an Irish E3 visa Bill in the US House of Representatives on 28 November last.
Both the Taoiseach and I have raised the issue of immigration with the US Administration at every opportunity, and I am pleased to report that this particular initiative has the support of the Administration, and of House Speaker, Paul Ryan. The House Bill itself was sponsored by Congressman James Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, and Congressman Richie Neal, a Democrat from Massachusetts, Co-Chair of the Friends of Ireland, whom I met recently here in Dublin.
The Bill will now be considered in the US Senate. Although the timing has not been confirmed, this may happen as early as next week. In order to pass in the Senate, the Bill would require 60 votes in favour and none against. While current signals are positive, there is no guarantee the legislation will pass successfully.
If passed in the Senate, the Bill would add Irish citizens to those who are eligible for E3 visas, potentially opening up 4,000 approx. visas each year to Irish citizens who wished to work in the US for a period. The spouses and children of those who qualify would receive additional visas and would not count against this cap. The Bill as passed by the House of Representatives would mean Irish citizens would be eligible to apply for those E3 visas that Australian citizens had not used in the previous year. The current E3 Bill references reciprocity on the Irish side and, were a successful E3 scheme for Irish citizens to be agreed by the US Senate, a similar reciprocal scheme would be put in place here designed specifically for US citizens.
Our Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the Government's Special Envoy to the US Congress on the Undocumented, Mr. John Deasy TD, have remained in ongoing contact with key Administration and Congressional figures, as well as other partners on the Bill, including the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers and other key Irish community leaders. I understand that there is cautious support for the Bill among this group, and a recognition that, while it is limited, the current political context in the US does not lend itself to a more ambitious initiative.
While this Bill, unfortunately, does not address the situation of the Irish in the US who are undocumented, the Embassy and the Consulates in the US, working with Special Envoy Deasy, will continue to explore with the US Administration whether any possibilities might exist to identify pathways to waivers for undocumented Irish. It is hoped that, in a future more benign political context, it might be possible to secure such pathways for the Irish undocumented to regularise their status. In any case, the Government will continue to raise the position of the undocumented at every opportunity.