Efforts have been renewed by both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to add Ireland to the E-3 visa program.
The Irish E-3 visa has been long advocated for and in fact, our Managing Attorney, Fiona McEntee, has been involved in these efforts for years including advising many members of the Irish government on this option and being a regular media commentator on the Irish E-3 visa. Our 2 McEntee Law partners – sister/brother, Fiona and Ray McEntee – are originally from Dublin so the Irish E-3 visa is near and dear to our hearts.
Those interested in the Irish E-3 visa may recall that a previous effort had passed unanimously in the House but sadly, it ultimately failed as it was blocked by one lone objection from Senator Tom Cotton in December 2018.
This new bipartisan effort is led in the House by Democratic Congressman Richard E. Neal, Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, and Republican Congressman Mike Kelly. An identical companion bipartisan bill has been filed in the Senate by Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democratic Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois.
Senator Durbin spoke of the unique connection between the United States and Ireland:
“The United States and Ireland have long championed the ideals of liberty and freedom, which has allowed our nations to form an unshakeable bond that nurtures these ideals.”
Senator Toomey said:
“With this legislation, highly-skilled Irish workers can apply for the E-3 nonimmigrant visa program to continue this tradition. I appreciate Senator Durbin working with me on this bipartisan immigration bill, which will strengthen America’s relationship with Ireland.”
While remaining cautiously optimistic about the Irish E-3 visa passing, let’s break down what the E-3 visa is, who would qualify, what the application process would be like, and more.
What is the E-3 visa?
The E-3 visa program was originally introduced in 2005 as part of a trade deal between the U.S. and Australia. It allows Australians to come to the U.S. to work for U.S. employers in specialty/professional positions.
How many E-3 visas are available each year?
There are 10,500 E-3 visas available each fiscal year for Australians. Typically, Australians only ever use approximately 5,000 of these E-3 visas per year.
The proposed bill before the House and Senate would allow Irish citizens to use the surplus E-3 visas from the prior year. This is important because it means that Ireland would never take away any E-3 visas from Australia – only the unused E-3 visas from the prior year would be available to Irish citizens.
Who is eligible for an E-3 visa?
To be eligible for the E-3 visa at present you must:
• Be an Australian citizen
• Have a U.S. employer for a job that is considered a “specialty occupation” i.e. requires a Bachelor’s degree, or its equivalent, in a specific field
• Ensure the job will pay you the higher of the prevailing wage (determined by the Department of Labor) or the actual wage (wage paid to workers in similar positions)
• Hold that specific Bachelors’ degree or higher or equivalent in work experience (12 years) **Note: we work with employers and employees to advise them on the wage requirement, specialty occupation definition, requirements etc.
• Show an ultimate intent to depart the U.S.
How long is the E-3 visa valid?
The E-3 visa is granted for a period of 2 years initially. In theory, the E-3 visa can be renewed indefinitely in 2-year increments, but note that it is still a temporary visa and is not a green card.
Are spouses and children allowed to come with an E-3 visa holder?
Yes, spouses, and children under 21 years old, are allowed to apply for a dependent E-3 visa.
Another huge benefit to the E-3 visa is that E-3 spouses are able to work immediately on entry and independently from the primary E-3 visa holder! In the past, E-3 spouses needed to apply for a separate employment authorization document (EAD) that took many months, but that is no longer needed, and they are now considered “employment authorized incident to status”.
How will the proposed Irish E-3 visa bill affect Irish citizens?
If the proposed Irish E-3 bill is signed into law, Irish citizens who meet the criteria will be eligible to apply for E-3 visas unused by Australian citizens.
There would potentially be 5,000 E-3 visas available for Irish citizens per year. If it goes ahead, the Irish E-3 visa will be an amazing opportunity for qualifying Irish citizens to move to the U.S. to work on a temporary basis.
How do you apply for an E-3 visa?
Your U.S. employer sponsor would typically work with an immigration attorney to prepare the E-3 case. Our experienced immigration attorneys at McEntee Law are well versed on the E-3 visa as we have many Australian clients. You can book a consultation with us directly here.
We can also advise you on any other immigration options you may have in the event that the Irish E-3 visa does not become a reality. Call us today on 773-828-9544 to learn more.
Part of an E-3 visa involves filing a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the Department of Labor. Once approved, the certified LCA is added to the rest of the E-3 application.
Eligible individuals can apply directly at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad for the E-3 visa or if you’re in the U.S. in valid status, it may be possible to file to change status to E-3 here in the U.S.
We highly recommend that all E-3 visa applicants consult with an experienced attorney to get advice on filing strategy, and also to prepare for any Embassy/Consulate interview.
What needs to happen for the Irish E-3 visa to be a reality?
To become law, the proposed Irish E-3 visa bill would need to pass in both the House and the Senate. It would then reach President Biden’s desk for signature. Given President Biden’s connection to his ancestral home, we hope he would welcome the bill with open arms.
As always, we remain cautiously optimistic that the Irish E-3 visa will become a reality but unfortunately, we don’t know that will happen. We’ve received frequent questions about the timing of this but unfortunately, there is no clear timeline for when the Irish E-3 visa could pass and be signed into law.
Where do I get news on the E-3 visa?
You can also follow our Managing Attorney, Fiona, on Twitter and on Instagram. Along with many others, Fiona has tirelessly advocated for the Irish E-3 visa for years. Maybe, just maybe, Irish eyes will soon be smiling.