Category: Archive

50,000 visas proposal from IIRM

February 15, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon and Susan Falvella-Garraty

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Signaling that it isn’t yet ready to pass into the pages of history, the Irish Immigration Reform Movement has proposed a new kind of non-immigrant visa for Irish hands that would be designed to provide a long-term boost for economically disadvantaged areas in Northern Ireland and the border counties.

The proposal, for as many as 50,000 “transitional visas” over a five-year period, was presented by the IIRM last week to a visiting Irish parliamentary delegation and to legislators in Washington.

The initiative came in a week when figures released by the U.S. Department of State revealed that only 776 Irish applicants have successfully qualified for DV-99 or Schumer diversity visa program.

The transitional visa proposal received immediate backing from members of the Irish delegation and, more crucially, prompted instant interest from legislators in Washington, where the tide has been running strongly against more immigrant visas in recent years.

According to the IIRM, its non-immigrant visa plan seeks to provide applicants from the North and six border counties in the Republic “the opportunity to obtain valuable work skills and the experience of working in a multicultural society, skills and experience that they can then utilize to enrich their local economies.”

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“It’s in the discussion stage, but we think it’s a good idea,” said Congressman James Walsh from New York.

“Basically, it would allow people to come over here and learn a trade and go back ready for employment,” Walsh, chairman of the Friends of Ireland group in Congress, added.

The IIRM proposal was also welcomed by visiting D_il Ceann Comhairle (speaker) Seamus Pattison and Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman, Desmond O’Malley, who were accompanied by six other D_il members as part of a renewed interparliamentary relationship involving U.S. and Irish lawmakers.

A Fianna F_il D_il deputy from Cavan, Brendan Smith, said discussions on the visa program during his visit had been positive.

“We would hope that helping those in war zones find valuable employment opportunities would be supported by everyone,” said Jim O’Connor of Congressman Walsh’s office.

The proposed program would not be designed to replace any current visa opportunities for Irish or British citizens seeking entrance to the U.S. Rather, it would increase the number of available opportunities to live and work here.

Most Irish currently coming to the U.S. to take up full legal residence do so under the terms of the Schumer program, which takes its name from Rep. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat.

The breakdown of the latest figures for the program reveal that 652 applicants from the Republic and 124 from Northern Ireland have been notified of success in applying for the DV-99 round of Schumer Visas, the application period for which ran for a month between October 24 and November 24, 1997. The total of 50,000 successful applicants were chosen from a worldwide pool of 3.4 qualified entries.

Meanwhile, there is no indication of when the IIRM-proposed transitional program would become available. But Capitol Hill staffers indicated that some lawmakers would be eager to put it in place as soon as possible in order to emphasize the potential for economic renewal peace would bring the North and border regions.

When Congressman Walsh, a Republican from Syracuse, was asked whether this visa might be named the “Walsh Visa,” he replied with a broad grin: “Sounds good to me.”

In New York, the IIRM’s legislative director, Eamonn Dornan, said that while the transitional visa proposal was currently aimed at the North and border counties, it was hoped that the idea might be eventually applied to all of Ireland.

Dornan indicated that while the IIRM would be strongly advocating the proposal, its current main effort was still directed at helping undocumented Irish immigrants in the U.S.

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