By Ray O’Hanlon
A delegation from the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in New York met last week with U.S. State Department officials in Washington to discuss the upcoming Phase 2 of the Walsh Visa Program.
The EIIC has expressed concern in recent months over the progress of the program, which offers a total of 12,000 three-year working visas to applicants from economically disadvantaged areas of Northern Ireland and the Republic.
There have been complaints from some visa holders over the type of jobs being assigned and the rates of pay.
"We had a very cordial meeting with the State Department. We presented our views and made it clear that we want the Walsh Program to succeed," said Anne Marie Scanlon, deputy executive director of the EIIC.
The EIIC delegation also met with officials from the Irish and British embassies and with a representative of Rep. James Walsh, who drew up the legislation that gave birth to a visa program, which is designed as an economic boost to the Northern Ireland peace process. The program is officially entitled the "Irish Peace Process, Cultural and Training Program Act."
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To date, the assigning of jobs under the Walsh program has been handled by the Virginia-based corporation Logicon.
Bids to run Phase 2 of the program were recently invited in the Federal Register with Sept. 1 the deadline for applications.
Logicon is understood to be an applicant. Emerald Isle has made no public move in that direction, although Scanlon indicated that EIIC was hopeful that it could play a role in running the program.
"We feel our involvement can help the Walsh program succeed," she said.