Category: Archive

Effort grows to dissuade casual visa applicants

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — With this year’s U.S. visa lottery open for applications this month, emigrant organizations in Ireland have appealed for people not to seek them unless they plan to use them.

Many visas granted in the past ended up unused while illegal emigrants have been forced to work undocumented in the U.S.

Fr. Paul Byrne, the director of the Catholic Bishop’s Commission on Emigration, said it is a “tragedy” that visa allocations, particularly during the Morrison and Donnelly programs, had been wasted.

“Some people who got them kept them in kitchen drawers in case they needed them,” Byrne said. “I know of whole families who got them and didn’t use them, while at the same time there were kids who would have given their right arm for a visa and never got one.”

From 1987-97, there were 75,000 U.S. visas issued to Irish people. Legally, unused visas from that period will have lapsed because residency and other requirements were not complied with in the meantime.

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Ireland is entitled to a maximum of 3,850 of the 55,000 visas available under the current program. But the country has received only a fraction of its possible entitlement from lotteries in recent years.

Paula O’Sullivan of the Emigrant Advice agency said that last year only 135 out of 55,000 visas then available in the U.S. lottery went to the Republic and 11 to Northern Ireland.

In the 1999 lottery, the South got 300 visas and 42 went to the North.

“They are very small allocations and it appears to be getting worse,” she said. “Because of the severe penalties, a lot of people who would have been eligible to apply in other years are not coming forward if they are illegal.

“They can’t follow through with the application because of new U.S. immigration laws. If you overstay your visa by a period of six months you are deportable for three years and there is no waiver of that.

“In the past, people in that situation would have been waived. Now I am sure it is really going to be tightened up.”

O’Sullivan said there are also problems for Irish high fliers who were allowed into the U.S. on temporary H1B visas that allowed them to work in the high-tech or financial industries.

“Their visas were dependent on their jobs and many of them are now gone,” she said.

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