Senator Thom Tillis
By Ray O’Hanlon
And then there were three.
The number of U.S. senators placing holds on a bill that would open E-3 visas to Irish applicants had fallen to three.
And backers of the visa legislation that passed the House of Representatives last week were hopeful that the concerns and/or objections of all three will be satisfied.
The number of senators placing holds was at six initially.
The reason for the holds ranged from one senator wanting to double check with the Australians to see that they had no problem with the Irish getting on board what has up until now been a visa program open exclusively to Australian nationals.
Another senator was advocating the inclusion of South Korea in the E-3 program.
And another was placing a hold, as one source put it, “for no apparent reason.”
One senator still placing a hold, Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, wants to see changes in an entirely different visa program, the H2-B, a program open to a large number of countries, Ireland included, that the Department of Homeland Security views as friends of the United States.
H2-Bs are temporary annual visas open to non-professional, non-agricultural workers.
There are no indications that Republican Tillis, has specific objections to expanding the E-3 program to Ireland so, if Senate norms prevail, he could end up lifting his hold in return for a commitment to consider his H2-B reform ideas separately.
At one point there was fear that a threatened government shutdown could stop the E-3 train in its tracks but government funding has been extended for another couple of weeks.
The funeral and national day of mourning for President George H.W. Bush did halt Senate business for a couple of days, but that has now resumed.