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New hope for Irish workers who could get access to thousands of US visas

It is now understood that US President Donald Trump has personally spoken to Senator Cotton about his opposition to the bill.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

NEW EFFORTS ARE underway to secure thousands of potential new US working visas for Irish people.

A bill that sought to allow Irish citizens avail of surplus E-3 visas that are specifically for Australians was brought forward in the US earlier this year. It was thought that if passed it could mean up to 5,000 US visas a year could be specifically set aside for Irish citizens.

The bill was passed in the US House of Representatives, without the need for a vote, early in December but then hit a serious roadblock in the Senate. 

It needed unanimous support in the 100-seat Senate because it was being fast-tracked but a “hold” was put on the bill by a single US senator, believed to be Senator Tom Cotton.

It is now understood that US President Donald Trump has personally spoken to Cotton about his opposition to the bill. 

The Taoiseach and TD John Deasy, who was appointed a government envoy to US Congress to work with the undocumented Irish living in the US, were informed by Congressman Richie Neal that he will be reintroducing the bill in a bid to get it over the line. 

The news emerged as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar finished up his St Patrick’s Day celebrations at the White House, where he pushed for progress on the E3 visa situation in the Oval Office meeting with the US president, as well as at the Speakers lunch on Capitol Hill and the Shamrock ceremony. 

He thanked the US congress for its support of proposals to allow Irish people to avail of a new E3 visa programme, highlighting that the laws allowing Irish people to avail of the visas narrowly missed being passed through the US Senate last year. 

Chicago-based Senator Billy Lawless of Seanad Éireann previously told TheJournal.ie that it felt like the bill had been “caught in the middle” of the “mayhem and crisis” in Washington. 

Lawless said Cotton was being lobbied heavily by Irish diplomats and advocates but that at the time they were unaware what his objection was. 

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