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deadline passes

US visa bill for Irish graduates scuppered by single US senator

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.

NEW EFFORTS WILL have to be made to secure thousands of potential new US working visas for Irish people after the deadline passed for it to be approved in the US Senate.

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 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. 

The final session of the term of Congress was held yesterday, without the bill being passed. A new session of Congress begins today. 

However, a new bill will have to be initiated as the House of Representatives is sitting for the first time under its new membership.

Chicago-based Senator Billy Lawless of Seanad Éireann told last month 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. 

RTÉ reports that Irish officials were now trying to explore other ways of securing support for the plan to add Ireland to the visa programme. 

 With reporting from Rónán Duffy

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