By: Andrew Clancy Rogers of Green and Spiegel LLP

When Congress reconvenes in Washington following the Thanksgiving holiday, it may be Irish Nationals that have most cause to be grateful.

In a bipartisan effort, Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Richard Neal and Wisconsin Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner have introduced a bill to Congress (H.R. 7100) that proposes adding Irish Nationals to the E-3 “Australian Special Occupation” Program. The E-3 program provides 10,500 visas each fiscal year to Australians entering the U.S. to “perform services in a specialty occupation”. The E-3 visa classification is very similar in substance to the H-1B classification, except that it is only available to Australians and as such, in the twelve years that the E-3 program has existed, the program has yet to reach the stated cap of 10,500 visas per fiscal year. Therein lays the opportunity: this bipartisan bill proposes that 50% of these 10,500 visas should be made available to Irish nationals.

This is welcome news for Irish nationals seeking to work in the United States. The E-3 visa is one of the most efficient U.S. visa options for Australians. Applicants may apply directly at a U.S. consulate (thus avoiding lengthy processing times with USCIS), the visas are granted for 2 year periods (renewable indefinitely), and spouses of E-3 visa holders are permitted to apply for employment authorization documents. Further, the proposed cap of 5,250 would not apply to E-3 extensions, and E-3 visa holders may be the beneficiaries of Immigrant Visas (although they are still required to intend to depart the U.S. upon termination of their E-3 status).

This significant addition to the U.S. immigration system will not only benefit Irish nationals seeking employment in the United States, but will also open up an additional talent reservoir for U.S. employers. Green and Spiegel remains cautiously optimistic and will be monitoring the development of this legislation closely.