Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Emigrant Support Services
Question 124: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will lobby key members of the US Senate during his visit to Washington DC by requesting them to support the E-3 visa scheme which would allow up to 10,000 working visas a year for Irish emigrants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7994/12]
As I outlined in my reply to question No. 47 of 25 January, enabling Irish people to apply for E-3 temporary U.S. work visas has been a particular focus of the Government's efforts in the context of our overall ongoing exchanges with the U.S. Administration and Congress on immigration-related issues. The Taoiseach and I discussed immigration issues with President Obama when we met with him on 23 May last year in Dublin and I also did so in separate exchanges which I had during the course of 2011 with Secretary of State Clinton and Senator Patrick Leahy, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
During my visits of last week to Washington D.C. and New York, I reviewed progress on E-3 issues during further separate contacts which I had with Deputy Secretary Bill Burns of the U.S. State Department and also with Senator Leahy, Senator Scott Brown and Senator Charles Schumer and members of the Friends of Ireland group at House of Representatives level.
As the Deputy will be aware, Senators Schumer, Leahy and Durbin and Senators Brown and Kirk had tabled draft Bills which would enable the provision of E-3 visas to Irish applicants. Both Bills have since been referred for examination by the U.S. Senate's Judiciary Committee and I am pleased that progress is being made towards securing the bi-partisan consensus that will be required if a good overall result is to be achieved.
In my discussions with them last week, I thanked Senators Leahy, Schumer and Brown for their ongoing efforts in this regard and encouraged them to persist towards reaching a positive outcome. I also assured them of the Government's continuing close interest and support in this connection, which we are exercising through our Embassy in Washington.
The Embassy is in turn working in tandem with key stakeholder groups from throughout the Irish-American community. The Taoiseach also met last week in New York with representatives from several of these groups, including the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform and the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centres. I would also like acknowledge and thank all these groups and others from within Irish-America for their vital help and support in rallying momentum behind our collective efforts.
I am heartened by the advances that have been made so far towards enabling Irish people to apply for E-3 visas. However, and together with our friends and allies on Capitol Hill and amongst the Irish-American community, I am conscious that the current U.S. domestic political climate around immigration issues and the Presidential elections taking place there later this year mean that nothing can be taken for granted. The Government will therefore continue to engage closely through the Embassy with key players at both U.S. Senate and House of Representatives levels over the period ahead with a view to further advancing our Irish E-3 visa objectives.