Former Congressman Bruce Morrison update on proposed Visa legislation for the Irish.

27th April, 2012

Senator Mark Daly
Seanad Éireann
Leinster House

Dear Senator Daly:

I wrote to you earlier this month to provide a short status update regarding the progress of legislation on Irish immigration to the U.S. to assist your deliberations. While not much has changed, I am writing again to keepyou abreast of what is happening.


On November 29, 2012, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3012 by a vote of 389-15. The bipartisan bill would eliminate country-based caps on the number of employment visas issued annually and boost similar limits for immigrants sponsored by a spouse or relative in the United States. It would NOT increase the total annual admission numbers.

The effect of the bill would be to increase the number of green cards issued in the next several years to natives of India, China, Mexico and the Philippines, while decreasing those received by natives of other countries, including Ireland.

Current immigration law sets a limit of 140,000 visas annually for employment-based green cards and 226,000 for family immigrants other than spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens (who are not limited). The law limits natives of any given country to 7 percent of those admissions. But the system is beset by extensive backlogs, with some immigrants waiting decades to get work visas. The employment- based limit would be eliminated by H.R. 3012, while the family-based limit would increase from 7 percent to 15 percent.

Because there will be no added visas, these increases to four countries must be deducted from other countries. This adds to the problem natives of Ireland already have in achieving green cards

The Problem

• Ireland is a small country with a big history of coming to America. We need to make that possible within legal immigration channels. The Immigration Act of 1965 replaced country quotas with family relationships and job offers as the basis to come. The result was a severe drop in Irish immigration.

• Ireland currently ranks 85 out of 200 countries in getting green cards (under 2000 per year out of more than 1 million worldwide). These numbers will not go up under the current system.

• The current economic crisis in Ireland makes the situation much worse, with tens of thousands of young Irish beginning to emigrate.

The Solution

• Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) has offered S. 1983, which amends H.R. 3012 to address this problem by adding a new Irish E-3 nonimmigrant visa program. S.1983 is co-sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Dick Durbin (D-IL).

• S. 1983 would create a legal channel for those seeking to come from Ireland now and an option for those currently here in undocumented status to go home and return legally. This is intended to remove the temptation to work and overstay on visa waiver entries because a legal channel would now exist.

• The bill would allow for a permanent future flow of long-term temporary residents who will remain eligible for green cards under existing categories. It may also provide relief to some of the undocumented Irish to qualify through waivers that are provided under current law.

• The new category would be created by amending the E-3 (Australian) category to provide Irish nationals with employment-based nonimmigrant admissions, but with a skill level tailored to that represented by the current Irish demand to migrate and a separate 10,500 visas for the Irish.

• Use of the E-3 category incorporates existing labor protections and attestations, admission for dependents, employment authorization for spouses, and indefinite renewal, as well as processing in Dublin without a prior petition approval.

• The Irish government has expressed a willingness to provide a reciprocal work-visa opportunity to U.S. citizens to facilitate their residence and employment in Ireland. Irish companies already employ tens of thousands of U.S. citizens in this country. These facts underscore the economic benefits of trade and immigration between Ireland and the U.S.

• There is nothing unusual about the extension of particular immigration benefits to a particular country. H.R. 3012 provides very specific assistance to four nationalities—Indians, Chinese born in the PRC, Filipinos and Mexicans— to the detriment of other groups.

• U.S. immigration law currently has nationality specific provisions for Canada, Mexico, Central America, Eastern Europe, Australia, Cuba, Haiti, Singapore, Chile, among others. Extension of E-3 benefits in the future to address problems similar to those faced by other longstanding source countries will be more feasible after it is tested with the reciprocal, trade-promoting Irish relationship.

• S. 2005, introduced by Senator Scott Brown(R-MA) and co-sponsored by Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Patrick Toomey(R-PA) does not incorporate H.R. 1312, but Senators Schumer and Brown have brought their bills into alignment and are both seeking an agreed procedure to get Senate approval followed by enactment in the House.

• Negotiations are continuing among relevant Senate offices to seek an agreed procedure for the Senate to vote on legislation including an Irish E-3 visa. There is a tentative agreement on the substance of the E-3 provision that provides adequate number of visas and an appropriate skill level. The delay is in obtaining agreement on the procedure for a vote.

• It is hoped that there will be a decision on the process before the end of May, so that there will be ample time to implement the agreement, pass the E-3 in the Senate and have it considered in the House of Representatives.

Progress continues to be slow, but since last fall we have maintained positive momentum. While some may see the proposed E-as less than fully responsive to the needs of Irish nationals both in the U.S. and those seeking to come, it is dramatically better than current law. And it has garnered the bipartisan support that is essential to enactment.

Thank you for your continuing support and assistance with this project. Please contact me if further information is required.


Bruce A. Morrison