FOR many months now there has been real hope that the agony of waiting and uncertainty for 55,000 illegal Irish immigrants in the US will soon be over.
But now we learn that there may be a nasty sting in the tail of this welcome development. Pending new US immigration law may effectively spell the end of the J1 Visa which proved such a boon for Irish students over decades past.
The J1 student summer work visa has been on the go since 1961. It has provided education every bit as valuable as anything ever learnt on campus.
It has also been a vital source of funds for students and their harassed parents. For many it was a veritable rite of passage – a major staging-post on the path to adulthood which furnished memories well beyond middle age.
But as the new draft legislation now stands, in future students will not get a J1 visa unless their future employer, or another US sponsor, agrees to pay a new €500 fee. Prospective employers are most unlikely to punt that kind of money simply to get an Irish young person to do what is usually a few months' casual manual work.
There appear to be further bars on the student themselves putting up the forfeit, or indeed contractors, or other intermediaries, getting involved.
All of us are very cheered that so many of our immigrants in the US now have real hope of getting on the road to regularising their status. But the J1 revelation is a real blow – and we hope the Irish Government and the Irish American community will work vigorously and urgently to have this provision amended.