Pending Bill Proposes Expansion of E-3 Visa for Irish Nationals

Efforts are underway in Washington D.C. to secure the E-3 visa for Irish Nationals. H.R. 7164 proposes expansion of this “Specialty Occupation” visa to approximately 5,000 individuals of Irish origin per year, and was passed by Congress on November 28th. It is now being considered by the US Senate, where it requires unanimous support. Thus far, the Bill has enjoyed bipartisan support, and the backing of the White House.

The E-3 Visa is an employment visa currently exclusive to Australian Nationals, who use approximately 5,000 of the available 10,500 E-3 visas per fiscal year. The visa permits an individual to live and work in the U.S. for 2 years. The visa can be renewed indefinitely, and it also grants work authorization to spouses. Once an individual secures a job offer, a U.S. employer files a Labor Condition Application (“LCA”) with the U.S. Department of Labor and the individual applies or a visa directly at a U.S. Consulate abroad. Prevailing wage requirements ensure that an employee is paid at a rate determined by the Department of Labor for a given occupation in a particular geographic area. A “Specialty Occupation”, pursuant to INA § 214(i)(1) is one that requires:

  1. Theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, and
  2. Attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States.

An applicant for the E-3 visa presents at a U.S. Consulate with evidence of eligibility and other supporting documents, including proof of ties to their country of origin, and an adjudicating officer will either approve or deny their case. In the best case scenario, an individual may hope to have an E-3 visa within two weeks of an offer of employment.

The proposed law would give Irish nationals access each fiscal year to E-3 visas unused by Australians in the previous fiscal year. It would be particularly attractive to Irish recent graduates who travel every year to the U.S. on the J-1 visa, which under the Ireland Work and Travel Program (IWT) may be employed in internship positions related to their bachelor’s degree. Last year, 1,400 Irish graduates availed of this program, many in the hope of securing H-1B sponsorship and remaining in the U.S.

The H-1B program, like the E-3, requires that an individual secure a job offer, be employed in a Specialty Occupation and paid the prevailing wage. However, due to overwhelming demand, each year applicants are entered into a lottery in the first five business days of April, and selected at random for adjudication of eligibility. In 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) received 190,098 petitions for approximately 85,000 available visas. Furthermore, after a petition has been selected, there has been a considerable increase in Requests for Evidence and Denials issued by USCIS.

L-1 visas, which are used by multinational companies for intracompany transfers, are also being subjected to greater scrutiny and higher denials in recent times.

The proposed E-3 visa would allow for easier movement of Irish nationals to the U.S. As Ireland becomes the only English-speaking EU country next year, this will be beneficial for U.S. and Irish companies doing business between the U.S. and Ireland, as well as for individual Irish nationals who wish to pursue a career in the U.S.

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