SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Congressman Richard E. Neal, Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, and Congressman Mike Kelly will add Ireland to the E3 non-immigrant visa program.

Since 2005, the E3 program has provided 10,500 visas to skilled Australians each year under the U.S.-Australia trade agreement. The program has proven to be a successful means of gaining valuable professional experience in the United States for qualified Australian citizens. Despite this, Australians have only used about half of the available visas over the last decade. According to the bill, qualified Irish workers will be able to access unused Australian E3 visas in the future.

A professional visiting the United States on an E3 visa must be performing services in a “specialty occupation” for a U.S. employer. In accordance with the agreement reached with the Australians, applicants must possess a university degree or its equivalent in order to enter the United States. Holders of the E3 visa have the option of staying in the country for up to two years.

“The E3 visas, combined with these reciprocal arrangements, would provide welcome and long overdue movement of citizens between Ireland and the United States in both directions, which is so important to Irish America, the U.S., and Ireland,” said Congressman Neal.

“With generations of Irish Americans contributing to our country including helping to build and shape my home state of Pennsylvania, it is deeply important to me that we continue to reaffirm the strong relationship between our people and countries,” said Congressman Kelly. “Recognizing the numerous contributions Irish-Americans have made to the educational, political, and cultural life of America, it is important that we honor their many contributions and continue to support the unique relationship between our shared history and people.  I’m glad to join Congressman Richard Neal, Co-Chair of the Friends of Ireland, to ensure this strong relationship continues for the next generation of American.”     

There is an identical companion bill in the Senate introduced by Senator Pat Toomey and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin.

For the full text of the legislation click here.