By Ray O’Hanlon
The Irish immigration flood of the 1980s is now but a trickle. Irish applicants for the DV-2001 Schumer Visas have managed to lay claim to only 263 visas of the current batch of 50,000 being distributed among countries around the world.
This figure of 263 for Ireland is a combined one covering both the Republic and Northern Ireland.
Schumer applicants from the South secured 221 visas, while only 42 applicants from the North will be offered green cards under the 2001 version of the visa lottery scheme.
The Irish total was eclipsed even by Australia, a traditional destination for Irish emigrants. Australians wanting to live and work in the U.S. won 333 Schumers.
In the European geographic area, Irish winners were far outnumbered by successful applicants, not just from economically challenged countries such as Romania and Albania, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, but also economically advanced countries such as Germany and Switzerland.
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This year’s Irish total shows a sharp decline over last year’s total of 637 visas, which itself was described at the time as "pitiable" by a spokesman for the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in New York.
But this year’s total also further confirms what many have long suspected. For a variety of reasons, not least tighter U.S. immigration laws and the economic gravity pull of the Celtic Tiger, the flow of Irish migrants to the U.S. has dramatically slowed in comparison to the 1980s when Irish arrivals in the U.S. — most of them destined to be undocumented — numbered in the tens of thousands annually.
In the case of legal Irish immigrants, the rate of arrival on U.S. soil has now been reduced to the point of near total insignificance.
At the same time, various Irish immigration advocacy groups contend that the number of Irish overstaying their holiday visas and choosing to live in the U.S. as undocumented immigrants is still significant.
In the case of the Schumer Visas, both the Republic and Northern Ireland are allowed up to 3,500 visas annually. But Irish applicants must first compete with applicants in a pool from dozens of other countries before there is any chance of reaching those maximum ceilings. Winners are drawn at random from the pool.
In the case of the DV-2001 lottery, 11 million Schumer applications from around the globe were deemed as valid by the U.S. State Department. That’s an enormous increase over last year’s total of eight million.
Not surprising, then, that Irish applicants face daunting odds even when they properly fill in their forms and submit them on time.
"Obviously, the strong economy in Ireland is having an effect, but in a purely immigration sense, we are back to 1986, a time when the Irish had virtually no way of coming to this country legally," Carolyn Ryan, Executive Director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, said.
"Despite the difficulties being currently faced, the Schumer result underlines the fact that the Walsh Visa program is really important because it is just about the only way for Irish people to get over here legally right now."
The total number of Schumer Visas on offer each year is actually 55,000, but 5,000 of that total is reserved specifically for a group of Central American nations under the U.S. Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act.