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Revised E-3 bill before House Judiciary Committee

John Deasy


By Ray O’Hanlon

A renewed effort to secure two year renewable E-3 visas for the Irish in the lame duck House of Representatives could see active consideration after Thanksgiving.

A bill, jointly sponsored by Congressman James Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, and Richard Neal, the Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the congressional Friends of Ireland, is now before the House. A version of it has existed for several years.

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Back in in November, 2015, H.R. 3730, proposed allocation to Ireland of E-3 visas not taken up by Australians who enjoy a dedicated annual E-3 allocation.

The bill was placed before the House by Rep. Sensenbrenner and was taken up by the Judiciary Committee. No action was taken at the time.

Now a revised version, H.R. 7100, is before the House.

H.R. 3730, according to its language, was intended “to authorize unused visas numbers made available under section 101(a)(15)(E)(iii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to be made available to nationals of Ireland, and for other purposes.”

It additionally stated: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, visa numbers made available….that were unused by nationals of the Commonwealth of Australia during a fiscal year shall be made available on the same basis in the subsequent fiscal year to nationals of Ireland residing in that country.”

H.R. 7100 takes a different tack in that instead of the Irish applying for unused leftover E-3s, Irish and Australian applicants for the visas would be allowed apply at the same time.

The bill proposes “to add Ireland to the E-3 nonimmigrant visa program.” It has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

This proposal is unlikely to please the Australians.

The new E-3 proposal does not address the circumstances of the many thousands of undocumented Irish living in the United States by way of waivers though it is understood that efforts are being made by the Irish government to add waiver provisions to any future approved E-3 bill.

A House-approved E-3 bill would require a Senate companion to become law.

H.R. 3730 required of possible future Irish applicants that they would have at least a high school education or its equivalent, (which shall include passage of a high school equivalency examination) or have, “within five years, at least two years of work experience in an occupation classified as Zone 2 or higher by the Bureau of Labor Statistics if the alien is a national of the Republic of Ireland.”

It’s unclear at time of writing if the new Sensenbrenner/Neal proposal will deviate in any significant way from this H.R. 3730 language, or if it is a carbon copy.

This time around, however, Ireland is also offering a reciprocal arrangement to Washington which would see Ireland’s Department of Justice ease the requirements for Americans who want to retire in Ireland.

The Australian E-3 visas allow citizens of that country, and their spouses, to live and work in the U.S. for two years while additionally allowing for the possibility of a renewal.

The visa allocation was included in a trade deal between the U.S. and Australia but was widely seen as a reward for Australia for its help in the Iraq war.

As such, it was a quid pro quo deal. Any deal between Dublin and Washington would now also have a quid pro component given the reported retirement concessions.

U.S. citizens retiring to Ireland can draw their Social Security payments there as a treaty between the two countries allowing for this has existed for some years.

Reported the Irish Times regarding possible E-3s: “Applicants must have a job in the United States to quality and have certain academic or other qualifying credentials. But the E3 is significantly easier and less costly to obtain that the tradition H1B visa.”

The reemergence of a possible E-3 allocation comes against the backdrop of negotiations between Dublin and Washington that have included discussions between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and President Donald Trump - on St. Patrick’s Day in the White House - and John Deasy, a member of Mr. Varadkar’s Fine Gael party who has been acting as a de facto envoy to the U.S. Congress.

“We’re dealing with the leadership in both the House and the Senate on this issue from both the Democrat and Republican side. Definite progress has been made in the last two or three weeks,” Mr. Deasy has stated.

Mr. Deasy “declined to discuss the specifics of the negotiations” stated the Irish Times, “but he said that officials have a “definite timeline in terms of what we would like to see happen.”

“From the beginning the Taoiseach and I believed that any immigration agreement would require a bilateral arrangement that would benefit both sets of citizens,” Deasy said.

Again from the Times report: “One outstanding question is the status of the undocumented Irish already living in the US. While in the first instance the E3 visa scheme is likely to apply to future flows of Irish people, sources have indicated that discussions are also under way about accommodating undocumented Irish citizens who may qualify.”

The requirement that jobs relating to qualifications, and jobs secured in advance, might be required of any who want to secure E-3 visas brings to mind not only H-1B visas, but also the extended J-1 visas which have a job in advance requirement.

Australian take up of E-3 visas has varied year by year though a source told the Echo that it lately has been about 6,500 a year and “growing.”

If the E-3 visas become competitive that Australian demand could rise. At this juncture there is no indication as to whether Congress might consider an increase in the 10,500 annual E-3 allocation if it has to be divvied up between Australia and Ireland.

E-3 visas for the Irish certainly has bipartisan support in the both the House and Senate. The question is to what extent.

The Senate immigration reform bill passed in 2013, the so-called “gang of eight” bill, included a provision for 10,500 E-3 visas specifically dedicated to the Irish. The provision was penned by Democrat Charles Schumer, currently the Minority Leader in the Senate.