By: Australian AP
A trip to Ireland by a high-powered US congressional delegation, led by House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, could be the death knell for Australia's monopoly on a highly-attractive US work visa.
Ireland has aggressively lobbied US President Donald Trump and senior members of US Congress to break Australia's stranglehold on the E3 visa and allow Irish citizens to apply for it.
The E3 was high on the agenda last month when Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar visited Mr Trump at the White House and congressional leaders on Capitol Hill for St Patrick's Day celebrations.
The E3 is a coveted two-year visa allowing Australian professionals and their spouses to work in the US with no limit on the number of additional two-year extensions.
"The congressional delegation visiting Ireland is an important step in continuing that process," Ireland's envoy to congress John Deasy told the Irish Times.
Ms Pelosi, Richard Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and other members of the US delegation will land in Ireland on April 15 for meetings with Mr Varadkar.
The Australian government, led by Ambassador to the US Joe Hockey, successfully staged its own lobbying effort late last year to thwart Ireland's previous bid.
Each year 10,500 E3 visas are made available to Australians but only about half are snapped up.
Ireland has pushed for access to the visas Australians do not take up.
"It was clear from our meetings around St Patrick's Day that both the Republican and Democratic leadership offices want to continue to pursue the E3 Bill," Mr Deasy said.
"Both speaker Pelosi and president Trump told us they are behind efforts to get this finished and congressman Neal is one of its driving forces in the House."
Mr Neal, a Democrat, and Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican, are expected to reintroduce the bill into the House in coming weeks.
Australia was first rewarded with the E3 in 2005 following its support for the US during the Iraq War and the signing of the US-Australia free trade agreement.