US E3 visa access for Irish step closer as bill passes House

Sanwar Ali comment:

Access to the E3 visa scheme will be of great benefit to Irish citizens.  Another visa that is similar in many ways is the H1B visa.  However, the H1B visa is difficult to obtain for most employers and employees.  The H1B visa is usually heavily oversubscribed (there are concessions for a minority of employers) and there is a lottery for the available visas.   The likelihood of obtaining an H1B visa is low.  There is always good availability of E3 visas, so the quota should not be an issue. 

US E3 visa access, currently available exclusively to citizens of Australia, could soon be made available to Irish nationals. Republican Richie Neal’s bill, which would grant Irish access to US E3 visas, edged closer recently after it passed unanimously in the House of Representatives. The bill will now be considered in the US Senate.

Neal, who is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee – the chief tax-writing committee of the United States House of Representatives – revived the bill in the spring of 2019. It had previously been rejected by the Senate towards the end of 2018.

Currently, the E3 visa, which was launched in 2005 as part of a US-Australia Trade Agreement, gives citizens of Australia access to 10,500 US work visas every year. Most years, much of the quota goes unclaimed. Neal wants the visas that go unclaimed by Australians to be accessible for citizens of Ireland, but maintaining priority access for nationals of Australia.

The highest number of E3 visas claimed by Australians occurred in the last fiscal year, with 5,807 allocated.

E3 visa bill gets backing

Neal’s bill has been backed by fellow representatives, including Mary Gay Scanlon (Democratic Representative for Pennsylvania) and Kelly Armstrong (Republican Representative for North Dakota).

Scanlon said: “The bill is common-sense, recognizing the importance of the bond that the US shares with Australia and Ireland, two of our country’s closest and most steadfast allies.”

“This bill is not controversial and, in fact, it passed the House by voice vote in 2018 when my Republican colleagues held the majority in this chamber,” Scanlon added.

Armstrong said: “With St Patrick’s day approaching (March 17), Richie Neal’s bill acknowledges the unique friendship and working relationship between the United States and Ireland.”

Bill subject to reciprocal access for US citizens

Irish access to the US E3 visa is subject to Ireland providing reciprocal access to US citizens. In order to be granted an E3 visa, Irish applicants must be working in a speciality occupation in the US.

As a minimum requirement for entry under the E3 visa, applicants must be able to demonstrate a ‘theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge.’ In addition, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree or higher in a specific speciality or its equivalent.

An Irish applicant will need to have a job offer in place in the US. An employer will need a foreign labor certification from the US Department of Labor and must use and adhere to the rules of the E-Verify program.

E3 visa quota to remain the same

Under Neal’s bill, the E3 visa quota for each year will remain the same. Armstrong said: “The bill does not increase the number of visas authorized, and allows Australia, for whose nationals the program was originally created, to have first access to those numbers.”

Neal praised the work of his colleague, Jim Sensenbrenner, who has invested so much in the bill in the past. Neal said that Irish access to the E3 visa would give the holder the opportunity to live and work in the UK for up to two years, with the option to renew.

Neal said: “In broad strokes, my bill will simply enable qualified Irish workers to annually access unused Australian E3 visas from the previous fiscal year. Once passed, the Irish government has pledged to adopt a reciprocal arrangement that would allow Americans to work in Ireland under the same guidelines.”

According to Neal, legal migration between the US and Ireland has been ‘extremely limited for many, many years.’ He said that his bill has the support of the US public, Congress, the White House and the Irish government.

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