Former TD and US Special Envoy John Deasy has been hired by one of America’s oldest Irish organisations to lobby on the E3 visa scheme, amid a renewed push to secure access for Irish citizens to the visa programme.
The E3 visa – which was awarded to Australia in 2005 as part of a US-Australia trade agreement – is a two-year renewable visa, which also allows recipients and their spouses to live and work in the United States.
Mr Deasy has been retained by the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) to engage with political figures in Washington in a bid to shore-up political support for the Bill.
The legislative measure would include Irish citizens in a visa scheme that is currently only offered to Australians. Under the Irish proposal, which has been a focal point of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ US policy, Irish citizens could apply for the unused portion of Australia’s annual allocation of 10,500 visas.
The House of Representatives passed a version of the bill last March, but it has struggled to gain support in the Senate, which blocked the proposal in December 2018.
The upcoming St Patrick’s Day celebration, which will take place virtually this year, is seen as an opportunity to highlight the issue.
Similarly, the election of President Joe Biden, an Irish-American, in November’s election, has been welcomed as a positive development as Ireland seeks to gather support for the plan.
Under the proposal, American citizens would be given reciprocal rights to reside in Ireland.
Mr Deasy, a former Fine Gael deputy who did not stand in last year’s General Election, said political changes in Washington offered a new window of opportunity to make progress on the proposal.
“Because of the changes that occurred in the last election, there is a fresh opportunity to pass this Bill,” he said, adding that he looked forward to working with the Department of Foreign Affairs on the issue.
“The E3 is an extremely versatile visa. It is a flexible non-immigrant visa that can be renewed indefinitely every two years, and allow the partner of the E3 holder to work.”
The decision by the AOH – America’s oldest Irish institution – to retain someone to specifically work on the E3 visa issue “indicates how important Irish America is seeing this issue,” he said.
Separately, a number of Irish-American groups, led by the Irish-Connecticut Business Council, has written to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee Richard Neal, highlighting what they say is a provision in the House rules, which would allow the E3 legislation to be expedited.
Under new rules introduced due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a waiver can be applied to bills passed in the House in the previous year which would evade the need for a committee hearing, mark-up session and vote before receiving a full vote on the House floor.
“With this small window of opportunity for this provision, we urge you to utilize this procedural tool and take up H.R. 2877 [E3 bill] to quickly and expeditiously pass the resolution again and start building momentum in 2021 for this important economic development measure,” the letter states.