Bill to extend E3 visas to Irish citizens back before US Congress
A Bill to extend the E3 visa scheme to Irish citizens has been reintroduced in the US Congress as part of a renewed effort to win congressional support for the scheme.
House Democrat Richard Neal, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, reintroduced the Bill on Tuesday to the House. However, it will still need to be endorsed by the 435-member chamber. It will also need unanimous approval from the US senate before it passes into law.
A proposal to extend to Irish citizens the E3 visa scheme, which is currently only available to Australian nationals, progressed through the US congress late last year, but ultimately failed to garner sufficient support in the Senate, after Arkansas senator Tom Cotton blocked the measure.
Ahead of his meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last month in the Oval Office, President Donald Trump and vice-president Mike Pence spoke to Mr Cotton on the issue, though it is not clear whether he would lend his support to the proposal. Additionally, the changed make-up of both Houses of Congress since November’s mid-term elections means new members will need to vote on the proposal.
The E3 is a two-year renewable visa which allows Australian citizens and their spouses to live and work in the United States.
Australia negotiated the visa programme in 2005 as part of the US-Australia trade agreement, and it was widely seen as a reward for Australia’s support for the US in the Iraq war.
Applicants must have a job in the US to qualify and have certain academic or other qualifying credentials. But the E3 is significantly easier and less costly to obtain than the traditional H1B visa. It currently costs $250 to apply for the visa.
Australia had initially raised some concerns about the proposed extension of the scheme to Irish citizens. As a result, Irish nationals will only be permitted to apply for the visa after Australian nationals have first applied.
The development comes 10 days after a congressional delegation including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Neal, the chair of the Ways and Means committee, visited Dublin and Northern Ireland.
The visit took place amid renewed concern on Capitol Hill about the impact of Brexit on the Northern Ireland peace process and the Belfast Agreement.