Fresh efforts to secure special work visas for Irish citizens in America will go ahead after talks between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and US president Donald Trump, writes Juno McEnroe in Washington DC.
The new bill for the E3 scheme could result in up to 5,000 extra visas going to Irish workers and their families annually.
As well as having the support of both US Republicans and Democrats, it is understood that Mr Trump personally had a hand in making progress with the proposed scheme.
Currently, thousands of E3 visas are not used annually by workers from Australia, which was given the special scheme in 2005 in exchange for its support of the US during the Iraq war.
The proposed E3 Bill would allocate to Irish citizens whatever visa Australians do not use, which are estimated to number at least 5,000 annually.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was told when in Washington DC this week that Democrat congressman Richard Neal will reintroduce the Bill, along with Republican Jim Sensenbrenner.
While the proposed Bill did pass its first US Congress hurdle last November, it was ultimately blocked in the senate by just one vote from Arizona immigration hardliner Tom Cotton.
The Irish Examiner understands that Mr Trump as well as US vice president Mike Pence, who is Irish-American, both spoke to Senator Cotton earlier this week, paving the way forward for the bill.
Mr Trump in turn told Mr Varadkar as well as special US envoy John Deasy this week that the bill should now be filed again. Support was also expressed for it at the special St Patrick’s Day Speakers’ Lunch on Capitol Hill.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Deasy said: “This week in Washington it was made clear to us by all the leaders of both parties that they want to get the E3 Bill passed. Richard Neal confirmed he would soon be reintroducing the bill.”
Mr Varadkar also signalled, during his speech in the White House at the bowl of shamrock presentation on Thursday night, that progress had been made on the special visa scheme.
He told Mr Trump: “I want to thank you and Congress for your support for a new E3 visa programme, which would allow a limited number of Irish people to come here annually.”
Australia currently gets an agreed 10,500 E3 visas a year, which can be renewed every two years.
For Australians to qualify, they must have a legitimate offer of employment and be taking up a position that would be considered a special occupation. The two-year visa also extends to an applicant’s spouse.
With Australia only utilising about half of their E3 quota annually, nearly 5,000 American working visas have been going unused every year.
In return for opening up access to the E3 visas, the government have said that they will look at easing up on restrictions for American citizens who want to retire to Ireland.
Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar arrived in Chicago last night for the second leg of his US visit. He attended the Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago dinner and also met emigrant support groups.