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More workers may head to US in plan to relax rules for visas

THOUSANDS of Irish citizens could be eligible to work in the United States under a new visa system.

The system is expected to be based on the Australian model, where a visa can be renewed every two years.

New York senator Charles Schumeris is to introduce the bill in the Senate today and if passed, it will allow up to 10,000 Irish citizens to work legally across the Atlantic. Separately, new research revealed that US companies are seeking more visas to bring highly skilled foreign workers into the country.

The quota of visa applications was filled in just eight months this year, hinting at a stronger labour market in the US.

Businesses in the US have an annual quota of 85,000 H-1B visa applications and it was met two months earlier than in 2010.

In boom times, the quota could have been exhausted in as little as two days.

There are dozens of visa programmes for admitting foreign workers, most of them designed for temporary workers.

For example, there is a visa for foreign journalists, another for athletes, and yet another for entertainers.


But since its launch in 1990, the H-1B program has been controversial as businesses say the programme helps supplement a labour pool that contains too few engineers and scientists.

And technology workers say companies hire foreign workers to avoid paying US wages. The GAO study found that 54pc of visa recipients were categorised as "entry-level'' technical workers and paid less than experienced Americans with similar skills.

This new bill which is being proposed today will see a shift for visa applications from the employer to the employee.

After two years, the temporary workers could renew their visa, with support from their employer, as is the case in Australia.