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By: Rachel Farrell and Laura Larkin of the Irish Independent

Thousands of Irish citizens will be able to avail of a visa to work in the United States under proposed legislation passed by the lower house in the US Congress.

The E-3 work visa, a two-year renewable visa currently reserved for Australian nationals, would under the bill which passed through the House of Representatives become available to Irish applicants.

It is for workers in "special occupations" - there is no prescribed list of jobs but the requirement mandates a specialised knowledge.

Only unused visas, not taken up by Australians, would be issued to Irish citizens under the proposed changes.

The bill must now be cleared by the Senate where it needs unanimous consent.

Work has been ongoing, spearheaded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, to gain access for Irish people to the coveted scheme over the past number of months.

Ireland's special envoy to the US, John Deasy, welcomed the bill's progress but said he was under no illusions over the difficulty the bill may face in getting through the Senate.

Tanáiste Simon Coveney has also welcomed the passage of the bill, describing it as a "positive development for future generations to travel to [the] USA". However, he acknowledged there was "still work to do".

To qualify for the scheme as it stands, a legitimate offer of work from a US employer must be in place, and have been accepted, for a person to apply.

The visa can be "indefinitely" renewed and a spouse can also work in the US but not their children.

If the law is passed, there will be a maximum of 5,000 visas awarded to Irish citizens. It will not be accessible to undocumented Irish in the US.

Jim Sensenbrenner, who helped to introduce the legislation, said the bill would add to the "great legacy" between Ireland and the United States.

By: Aidan Lonergan of the Irish Post

The E-3 visa is currently available to Australian nationals only and allows them to live and work in the US for up to two years with a spouse – but typically only half are used.

Last night, a bill (HR-7164) proposing that Irish people be able to apply for the remainder of unused visas offered to Australians was unanimously approved by the House.

The legislation now goes through to the Senate, and – if passed – would open up a wealth of opportunities to Irish workers looking to start a new life and explore fresh opportunities across the pond.

Around 10,500 E-3 visas are offered to Australians who wish to work in America every year, and up to 5,000 Irish citizens will be eligible for the scheme annually if the bill passes.

'OUR UNIQUE FRIENDSHIP'

Republican Jim Sensenbrenner, who introduced the bill alongside Democrat Richard Neal, said the passing of the bill would add to the "great legacy" between Ireland and the US.

"The United States was built on hard work and the determination of immigrants – many of whom hail from Ireland. Through their perseverance, they have enabled this country to grow and prosper," he said.

"I believe in the value and opportunity that comes with legal immigration. I am pleased to have authored this legislation to make the process more efficient for one of our oldest allies, and add to the great legacy of cultural diversity celebrated in our country."

According to Mr Sensenbrenner, applicants based in Ireland would be able to apply directly at a US consulate but should expect lengthy processing times with US citizenship and immigration services.

He added that the visa would benefit both Irish and US citizens, including Americans who wish to "retire in Ireland" – as the Irish Government has promised to ease restrictions on US retirees if the bill passes.

"This significant addition to the U.S. immigration system will not only benefit Irish nationals seeking employment in the United States, but also ease restrictions on Americans wanting to live or retire in Ireland."

Fellow Republican congressman Steve Chabot said extending the E-3 visa to Irish citizens would recognise the special bond between the two countries.

"It's a simple bill that recognises the unique friendship and working relationship between the United States and Ireland," he said.

"HR-7164 allows nationals of Ireland to be eligible to apply for unused E3 non-immigrant visas."

A WAY TO GO

Speaking after last night's House vote, Irish TD John Deasy urged supporters of the legislation to be cautious.

"The bill will now be sent to the US Senate and it needs to be passed thereby unanimous consent meaning that it will require the agreement of all 100 senators for this to be signed into law," he said.

"I am under no illusions as to how difficult that may be."

Unlike many other visas, E-3 permits the spouses of recipients to live and work in the US without restrictions, but not their children.

To qualify, applicants must be employed in a specialty occupation, have necessary qualifications and receive a legitimate offer of employment from the US.

By: Ray O'Hanlon of The Irish Echo

It was a rare example of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill – and with the Irish in the middle of it.

The House of Representatives has approved legislation that would allow Irish applicants gain access to the E-3 visa program that is only open to Australians.

The legislation still requires Senate approval but the joining together of House Republicans and Democrats would appear to auger well for a matching measure in the Senate, though the hurdle in that chamber is larger than what it was in the House.

In the latter it was two thirds support, in the Senate it will have to be unanimous.

As it turned out the House voted unanimously on Wednesday evening for H.R. 7164, crafted by Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner from Wisconsin, and co-sponsored by Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Richard Neal, who chairs the Friends of Ireland group in Congress.

The bill had been in the pipeline for several years and has been tweaked several times, part because of Australian objection to the Irish being allowed to directly compete for the visas, 10,500 of which are awarded each fiscal year.

Instead, Irish hopefuls will be able to apply for those visas not taken up by Australians in each fiscal year.

It might be a second place of sorts but it also would be a first in that the Irish have lacked any large scale access to legal residency in the U.S. since passage of the Morrison visas in the early 1990s.

E-3s do no provide green cards but last for two years and are renewable indefinitely. Spouses of E-3 holders can also live and work legally in the U.S.

A release posted on Rep. Sensenbrenner’s website hailed the House approval of H.R. 7164.

“Today,” it stated, “the House of Representatives unanimously passed bipartisan legislation to extend E-3 visa eligibility to Irish Nationals. The bill was sponsored by Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI-05) and Richard Neal (D-MA-01).

The release carried Congressman Sensenbrenner’s delivered remarks on the House floor prior to the vote.

He said: “The United States was built on hard work and the determination of immigrants – many of them who hail from Ireland. Through their perseverance, they have enabled this country to grow and prosper.

“I believe in the value and opportunity that comes with legal immigration. I am pleased to have authored this legislation to make the process more efficient for one of our oldest allies, and add to the great legacy of cultural diversity celebrated our country.

“This modest proposal would give Irish Nationals the opportunity to work in the U.S. under the non-immigrant visa category of the E-3 Visa, previously reserved only for Australian nationals. Ireland in the meantime, has proposed a reciprocal work visa specific to U.S. nationals so that those wanting to live and work in Ireland can more easily do so.

“The E-3 visa is one of the most efficient U.S. visa options. Applicants outside the United States may apply directly at a U.S. consulate, thus avoiding lengthy processing times with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The visas are granted for 2 year periods (renewable indefinitely), and the spouses of E-3 visa holders are permitted to apply for employment authorization documents.

“Currently, 10,500 E-3 visas are allocated each year, yet only half of these are used. This legislation would allow Irish nationals to apply for those visas unused by Australian nationals.

“This significant addition to the U.S. immigration system will not only benefit Irish nationals seeking employment in the United States, but also ease restrictions on Americans wanting to live or retire in Ireland.

“In conclusion, I would like to say that this does not increase the number of visas that are authorized in total. It merely allows the Irish nationals to apply for the visas that Australian nationals do not want to use on a year-to-year basis.”

Congressman Neal, who is poised to chair the House Ways and Means Committee in January, invoked the mass passage of the Irish across the Atlantic during the years of the Great Hunger and its aftermath.

“America, to its everlasting credit the land of the great, home of the brave, welcomed them.”

Neal described the U.S. relationship with Ireland as “one of the great relationships in terms of allies that we have in the history of America.”

The E-3 initiative has been supported for some years by Irish immigration reform campaigners in the U.S., Irish American organizations, and the Irish government.

The Irish Times was reporting today that the Irish government’s special envoy to the U.S. Congress, John Deasy, and the Irish embassy in Washington, were advancing talks with senior figures on Capitol Hill and within the Trump administration about expanding access to the coveted visa scheme to include Irish people.

Speaking on Capitol Hill on Wednesday Mr. Deasy said that he welcomed the vote in the House, but noted that it now needed to gain approval in the Senate.

“This is an important step for it to have passed the House, but this now goes to the U.S. Senate where it will need to be considered under unanimous consent which will require all hundred senators to agree for it to be signed into law. I am under no illusions how difficult that may be,” he told the Irish Times.

Added the Times report: Among the key provisions of the E-3 visa is that applicants must have a job in the U.S. to quality and have certain academic or other qualifying credentials. But the E-3 is significantly easier and less costly to obtain that the traditional H1-B visa for professionals.

The report stated that the Irish government’s Department of Justice was looking at options to change the criteria needed for U.S. retirees, including lowering the income threshold needed and allowing retirees to work for up to twenty hours a week.

The Journal.ie web-based daily carried a reaction from Chicago-based Irish Senator Billy Lawless, an Independent representing the Irish diaspora.

“It is my ardent hope that in addition to creating future flow Irish immigration to the USA that many undocumented Irish will also qualify for this scheme,” said Lawless.

“We have seen disappointment in the past on immigration legislation, particularly in 2007 and 2013 when we came close, but I am cautiously optimistic in welcoming this new deal, given that the President, the Homeland Security Chief and the Speaker’s Office are pushing this bill forward during the lame duck session.”

Senator Lawless was here highlighting the fact that any future E-3 availability would not, as currently constituted, bring relief to the undocumented Irish, or indeed open the U.S. to potential Irish immigrants with a full spread of job skills.

By: Matt Rybaltowski of Forbes

In reaching a comprehensive gaming deal with Major League Baseball earlier this week, MGM Resorts International reverted back to a playbook that has dictated the company's sports betting strategy in the brief Post-PASPA era.

The partnership, which designates MGM Resorts as the first-ever official gaming partner of the league, follows similar deals with the NBA and the NHL over the last four months. MGM Resorts, one of the world's largest gaming operators, owns the distinction of being the only company in the casino industry to form partnerships with all three leagues. Though MGM  completed all three deals on a non-exclusive basis, it remains the lone sports book operator to land a sponsorship deal with a Big Four professional sports league since the Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports betting in May.

With the three leagues on board, MGM has yet to hook the big fish in the pond. On Wednesday, MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren delivered a keynote address at the ICE Sports Betting USA Conference in New York. Predictably, Murren was peppered with questions on MGM's relationship with the NFL. While Murren noted that MGM shares a philosophical alignment on sports betting with the three aforementioned leagues, the same can not be said for the NFL.

Without enumerating all of the differences between the sides, Murren addressed a key sticking point during his appearance. While the NFL has urged Congress to enact uniform standards for states that are considering the legalization of sports gambling, Murren said that MGM does not support a federal approach. Echoing that position, the American Gaming Association has consistently opposed legislative efforts for certain business interests that it believes can be accomplished through commercial relationships such as MGM's partnership with Major League Baseball. 

"It is not a coincidence that we have relationships with those three leagues and not currently with the NFL," Murren said. "This is an emerging field, I think anyone that drives a stake in the ground and says 'this is my position and I'm not willing to change,' is going to end up eating those words."

The NFL, meanwhile, has taken the position that any federal legislation pertaining to sports gambling should contain a provision that requires gaming operators to use official league data in determining betting outcomes. Since betting outcomes for prop wagers now depend on granular details such as the number of yards gained by a certain player, the need for the data has become more pronounced, NFL Executive Vice President Jocelyn Moore testified at a Congressional hearing in September. Following November's midterm elections, Rep. James Sensenbrenner warned that it could take Congress months, possibly years, to enact legislation on sports betting.

Casey Schwab, Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs for the NFL Players Association, indicated Wednesday that he favors a cautious approach in evaluating potential commercial relationships with gaming operators. To that end, the league may prefer to wait until Congress acts before entertaining such deals. Sensenbrenner, chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, outlined several pathways for Congress to explore in deciding whether federal legislation for sports betting is necessary. On one hand, Congress can adopt uniform federal standards, as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recommends. On the other, the federal government can defer completely to the states. The biggest mistake, Sensenbrenner argues, would be to do nothing. 

"We want to make sure that the framework is set up first and so does our league," Schwab said. "We don't want to go out there and do a deal without the proper underlining framework."

More immediately, Murren emphasized that there were several factors driving the deal with MLB. The agreement enables MGM to become an official partner of grassroots events such as the league's MLB Road Show in Japan. Though sports betting in Japan has been limited primarily to horse racing, recent legislation was passed over the summer that could lead to the opening of casinos nationwide, the Japan Times reported. As MGM waits to hear whether it will be awarded with a casino license in Japan, Murren is focused on promoting baseball with MLB across the country.

Furthermore, while Murren believes the deal could yield a reasonable return on investment from sports betting he appears more concerned in augmenting relationships with associations like MLB. When confronting significant regulatory and lobbying hurdles with the new sports betting environment, it will be valuable for the company to align with the leagues, said Adam Greenblatt, CEO of MGM GVC Interactive, a joint venture between MGM Resorts International and GVC Holdings.

Despite their differences, Murren also demonstrated a willingness to maintain a more fulsome relationship with the NFL. Over the next several months, he said MGM will target strategic relationships with NFL team owners comparable to one the company signed last month with the New York Jets.

Whether it is team owners or the leagues themselves, Murren seems determined to cultivate partnerships with those who share his view on sports betting as a unique value proposition.

"Our focus has been to develop philosophical alignments with the leagues as a way to build fan engagement and ensure the integrity of the product," Murren said. "Those three leagues have been willing to do that."

By: Rachel Farrell of the Irish Independent

The US House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that may see thousands of new visas issued to Irish citizens every year- if it passes through the Senate.

The E-3 work visa, a 2-year renewable visa that is currently reserved for Australian nationals only, would be issued to Irish citizens from the remainder of unused visas offered to Australians.

Here's everything you need to know about the E-3 visa, and what requirements are needed to apply for one.

What is the E-3 visa?

The E-3 visa, or the “Australian Specialty Occupation Professional” visa, is a visa that currently allows Australian nationals to work and live in America.

According to Australian immigration, the visa was first introduced in 2005 to allow professionals “to capitalise on the opportunities offered under the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement”. 

There is no definite list of “special occupations” eligible for the visa, but it is defined as “theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge”.

Who is eligible?

At the moment, only Australian citizens are eligible for the visa, but that could be all set to change. The US House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that could make thousands of Irish people eligible for the visa, if it passes a final vote from the Senate.

What requirements are needed?

To apply for the E-3 visa, a legitimate offer of employment in the US is needed. You also must have necessary academic or other qualifying credentials, and be able to show that you have the “necessary license or other official permission” to practice in the specialty occupation. 

There is no age limit on the visa, but a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or at least 12 years experience in the specialty occupation is necessary.

How can I get one?

The first step for Australians interested in obtaining the E-3 visa is to find a suitable job in the US. Once someone has accepted a job offer, they can begin the application with their employer.

The application includes paperwork and a pre-organised interview with a consular officer. There is not yet any details on whether the Irish citizen application will be the same.

How long is the visa for?

The E-3 visa is a two-year visa, but it can be “indefinitely renewed”. It also allows spouses of recipients to work in America during this time, but not their children. 

How many visas are issued?

There is currently a total of 10,500 visas available for Australian citizens, but if the bill is passed, the remainder of the visas each year may be issued to Irish applicants. 

A maximum of 5,000 will be allocated to Irish citizens if the bill passes in the US Senate.

How much does it cost?

The application fee for Australians currently costs $205 USD (€180).

Why is it now being offered to Irish citizens?

Democrat Richard Neal and Republican Jim Sensenbrenner introduced new legislation to the Congress earlier this year, and it was passed in the House of Representatives during a Congress debate last night.

It is expected to go through the Senate in the coming weeks. 

Why did the Congressmen decide to sponsor the bill?

According to Mr Sensenbrenner, passing of the bill would add to the "great legacy" between Ireland and the States.

"The United States was built on hard work and the determination of immigrants - many of them who hail from Ireland. Through their perseverance, they have enabled this country to grow and prosper," he said yesterday.

"I believe in the value and opportunity that comes with legal immigration. I am pleased to have authored this legislation to make the process more efficient for one of our oldest allies, and add to the great legacy of cultural diversity celebrated our country."

By: Rachel Farrell of the Irish Independent

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill that may see thousands of new visas issued to Irish citizens every year.

The E-3 work visa, a 2-year renewable visa that is currently reserved for Australian nationals only, would be issued to Irish citizens from the remainder of unused visas offered to Australians.

Some 10,500 E-3 visas are offered to Australians who wish to work in America every year, and if the bill receives Senate approval, up to 5,000 Irish citizens will be eligible for the scheme.

The bill was unanimously passed by the House of Representatives during a debate in Congress last night, the Bill must now be approved by the US Senate.

Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, who sponsored the bill alongside Democrat Richard Neal, said the passing of the bill would add to the "great legacy" between Ireland and the States.

"The United States was built on hard work and the determination of immigrants -many of them who hail from Ireland. Through their perseverance, they have enabled this country to grow and prosper," he said.

"I believe in the value and opportunity that comes with legal immigration. I am pleased to have authored this legislation to make the process more efficient for one of our oldest allies, and add to the great legacy of cultural diversity celebrated our country."

According to Mr Sensenbrenner, applicants outside the US will be able to apply directly at a US consulate, to lengthy processing times with US citizenship and immigration services.

He added that the visa would benefit both Irish and American citizens, including American citizens who wish to "retire" to Ireland with the Department of Justice currently looking to change the criteria needed for US retirees.

"This significant addition to the U.S. immigration system will not only benefit Irish nationals seeking employment in the United States, but also ease restrictions on Americans wanting to live or retire in Ireland."

The visa allows spouses of recipients to work in America, but not their children. Applicants must be employed in a speciality occupation, have necessary credentials and receive a legitimate offer of employment to apply.

By: Rachel Farrell of the Irish Independent

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill that may see thousands of new visas issued to Irish citizens every year.

The E-3 work visa, a 2-year renewable visa that is currently reserved for Australian nationals only, would be issued to Irish citizens from the remainder of unused visas offered to Australians.

Some 10,500 E-3 visas are offered to Australians who wish to work in America every year, and if the bill receives Senate approval, up to 5,000 Irish citizens will be eligible for the scheme.

The bill was unanimously passed by the House of Representatives during a debate in Congress last night, the Bill must now be approved by the US Senate.

Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, who sponsored the bill alongside Democrat Richard Neal, said the passing of the bill would add to the "great legacy" between Ireland and the States.

"The United States was built on hard work and the determination of immigrants -many of them who hail from Ireland. Through their perseverance, they have enabled this country to grow and prosper," he said.

"I believe in the value and opportunity that comes with legal immigration. I am pleased to have authored this legislation to make the process more efficient for one of our oldest allies, and add to the great legacy of cultural diversity celebrated our country."

According to Mr Sensenbrenner, applicants outside the US will be able to apply directly at a US consulate, to lengthy processing times with US citizenship and immigration services.

He added that the visa would benefit both Irish and American citizens, including American citizens who wish to "retire" to Ireland with the Department of Justice currently looking to change the criteria needed for US retirees.

"This significant addition to the U.S. immigration system will not only benefit Irish nationals seeking employment in the United States, but also ease restrictions on Americans wanting to live or retire in Ireland."

The visa allows spouses of recipients to work in America, but not their children. Applicants must be employed in a speciality occupation, have necessary credentials and receive a legitimate offer of employment to apply.

By; Ryan Prete of Bloomberg Law

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) has introduced yet another online sales tax bill.

The Congressman introduced the No Retroactive Online Taxation Act of 2018 Nov. 29, a new online sales tax bill that would prohibit states from imposing sales tax collection duties on remote sellers for any sale that occurred prior to June 21, 2018—the day the U.S. Supreme Court delivered the Wayfair decision.

Sensenbrenner has been the most active federal lawmaker in the online sales tax field since the Wayfair ruling. In September, he filed the Online Sales Simplicity and Small Business Relief Act of 2018 (H.R. 6814), a which would also ban retroactivity and would require all states to push back online sales tax law implementation dates to Jan. 1, 2019.

As of Nov. 1, 23 states have seen online sales tax enforcement laws go live.

Sensenbrenner told Bloomberg Tax in September he was he was “very confident” that H.R. 6814 would be considered by the House by the end of 2018. The bill hasn’t moved since its introduction.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s groundbreaking ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair tossed out Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, the Supreme Court’s 1992 physical presence threshold for when states could tax remote sales. The majority in the 5-4 ruling suggested strongly that South Dakota’s law requiring remote sellers that meet thresholds of $100,000 in annual in-state sales or 200 transactions to collect and remit sales tax would pass constitutional muster.

The court didn’t rule on the validity of South Dakota’s law in the absence of Quill, but that hasn’t stopped states from passing their own versions of it.

By: Suzanne Lynch of The Irish Times

The US House of Representatives has voted to extend the E3 visa scheme to Irish citizens during a debate in Congress on Wednesday evening.

Though the Bill must still get Senate approval, its passage through the House marks a major breakthrough in Ireland’s efforts to secure new visa access for Irish citizens who want to live and work in the United States.

Up to 5,000 visas per year could become available under the scheme which is currently only open to Australian citizens.

Speaking in the House on Wednesday evening during the debate, Congressman Richard Neal who co-sponsored the bill with Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, described how more than a million people moved to America from Ireland after the famine. “America to its everlasting credit the land of the great, home of the brave, welcomed them.”

He said that the United States’ relationship with Ireland remains “one of the great relationships in terms of allies that we have in the history of America.”

Mr Sensenbrenner said the proposal would be a significant addition to the US immigration system, noting that it would also ease restrictions on Americans who want to live in Ireland without raising the cap on numbers already extended under the E3 visa scheme.

“The United States was built on hard work and the perseverance of immigrants, many who came from Ireland,” he said.

Senate hurdle

While the Bill only needed a two-third majority to pass in the lower chamber, the Senate requires unanimous consent in order to progress the Bill - a significant hurdle.

The E3 is a two-year renewable visa which allows Australian citizens and their spouses to live and work in the US. Australia negotiated the visa programme in 2005 as part of the US-Australia trade agreement.

The Government’s special envoy to the US Congress John Deasy and the Irish embassy in Washington have been advancing talks with senior figures on Capitol Hill and within the Trump administration about expanding access to the coveted visa scheme to include Irish people.

Concerns from Australia about the impact of the deal on their own access to the visas threatened to scupper the deal in recent weeks. However, it is understood that the Australian embassy in Washington is now on board. Among the assurances they have received is that Irish citizens will only be able to apply for visas not taken up in the first instance by Australia.

As many as 10,500 E3 visas are made available to Australian nationals each year under the 2005 deal between the US and Australia but only half of these are taken up each year.

Among the key provisions of the E3 visa is that applicants must have a job in the US to quality and have certain academic or other qualifying credentials. But the E3 is significantly easier and less costly to obtain that the traditional H1B visa for professionals. Unlike other visas, the two-year E3 visa can be renewed indefinitely and includes spouses.

Speaking on Capitol Hill on Wednesday Mr Deasy said that he welcomed the vote in the House but noted that it now needed to gain approval in the Senate.

“This is an important step for it to have passed the House, but this now goes to the US Senate where it will need to be considered under unanimous consent which will require all 100 Senators to agree for it to be signed into law. I am under no illusions how difficult that may be.”

But officials at the Embassy of Ireland in Washington were tight-lipped, cautioning that the Bill still needed senate approval.

Undocumented Irish

As it stands the Bill only applies to future flows of Irish people rather than undocumented Irish living in the United States.

As part of the negotiations, Ireland has offered to make it easier for US citizens to retire in Ireland. The Department of Justice is looking at options to change the criteria needed for US retirees, including lowering the income threshold needed and allowing retirees to work for up to 20 hours a week.

It is understood that Irish and Australian officials are working closely together on the negotiations as the Bill moves to the Senate phase, including introducing small tweaks to the initial E3 scheme. Crucially for Australia, the proposed legislation says that Irish citizens will be eligible to apply for “not more than a number equal to the difference between 10,500 and the number of applications approved in the prior fiscal year for aliens who are nationals of the Commonwealth of Australia”.

By: Ray O'Hanlon of The Irish Echo

Sharing is caring – so long as it’s the leftovers that are being shared.

Australia has relented in the face of the Irish bid to secure a portion of Washington’s annual E-3 visa allocation.

But the ground giving is on the basis of, as the Sydney Morning Herald reported: “Almost 11,000 Australians a year will continue to have exclusive access to a prized visa that allows them to work in the U.S. following an intense lobbying campaign by Australian officials in Washington.”

The Sydney daily reported that Australia’s ambassador to the U.S., Joe Hockey, had “gone nuts” over proposed legislation “that could have seen Australians competing with the Irish for access to the plum E3 visa scheme.”

The paper stated in a separate report that “Ireland is trying to muscle in on a special United States visa class that only Australians currently enjoy and which has limited numbers.”

A bill before the House of Representatives, H.R. 7100, co-sponsored by Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner from Wisconsin and Democratic Congressman, and Chairman of the Friends of Ireland, Richard Neal, from Massachusetts, had proposed to “add Ireland to the E-3 nonimmigrant visa program.”

That bill has since been amended and, as H.R. 7164, is listed for debate and a possible floor vote today in the House of Representatives.

Prior to the bill amending, the precise method of adding had occupied Ambassador Hockey’s mind to the point of his apparently straying from normal diplomatic wording and method and venting his concerns to, among others, House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“It seems the ambassador, Joe Hockey got a bit excited about it,” was the measured, indeed diplomatic, reaction of Billy Cantwell, publisher of the Irish Echo newspaper in Sydney.

Hockey’s reaction to the bill apparently had an effect.

Again reported the Sydney Morning Herald: “That legislation has now been withdrawn and replaced by a new draft bill that guarantees Australians continued access to up to 10,500 E3 visas a year.

“The new bipartisan bill would allow Irish professionals in the U.S. to apply for any unused visas from Australia’s annual quota in the subsequent fiscal year.

“Australia’s first preference was to remain the sole beneficiary of the E3 visa, which was created as part of the 2005 Australia-US Free Trade Agreement.

“But sources said the Australian embassy was ‘comfortable’ with the new legislation and would be recommending members of Congress support the bill.”

The paper noted that despite the advantages inherent in the E-3 visa program, (Australian) uptake of the visa “has been slow and thousands go unused each year.”

It’s these thousands of unused visas that could end up being offered on an annual basis to Irish visa hopefuls.

At the same time, however, all the E-3s in a given year could end up going to Australia if demand from there reaches the 10,500 visa ceiling.

“Roughly 5700 Australians took advantage of the E-3 scheme in 2017, leaving almost half of our annual quota unused,” the Morning Herald noted.

The report additionally stated: “Irish officials have insisted that their goal has only been to gain access to any of Australia’s remaining visas.

“But the Australian embassy was concerned that, under the wording of the initial bill, Australian and Irish professionals would be competing for the same pool of 10,500 visas.

“Australian officials pointed out that applications for the visa have been growing over recent years and Australians could miss out in the future if forced to compete with the Irish.

“Australian officials raised objections with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and senior figures in the Trump administration in recent weeks.”

The paper noted that “many members of the US Congress have Irish ancestry, and are sympathetic to the idea of making it easier for Irish professionals to work in America.”

The Visa Weekly website reported that above and beyond Australian concerns about the Irish coming on board the E-3 program, Australian officials also fear that “if the Irish succeed, other countries also might want to be given access” to the E-3 program.

E-3 visas are awarded on a two year basis and can be renewed indefinitely. An E-3 visa holder can be accompanied to the U.S. by a spouse. In many respects the E-3s are not unlike H-1B visas or the extended J-1 Visas.

And E-3 program open to the Irish will not address the issue of the undocumented Irish, or open passage to the U.S. for a broad swathe of potential Irish immigrants as the E-3s, as currently formulated, are focused on people with specific professional qualifications.

H.R. 7164 is expected to come up for debate and a vote late Wednesday afternoon.

The bill specifies that Australians will have access to not more than 10,500 E-3 visas in a fiscal year but goes on to add: “For applicants who are nationals of Ireland, not more than a number equal to the difference between 10,500 and the number of applications approved in the prior fiscal year for aliens who are nationals of the Commonwealth of Australia.”

In other words, Irish applicants will be eligible for those E-3 visas not taken up by Australians in a given fiscal year.

It is possible that there will be a call for a voice vote today on H.R. 7164. If such a call is made and there is no subsequent call for a recorded vote the bill will be considered passed. If there is a call for a recorded vote that vote will be moved forward to tomorrow, Thursday.