US senators are set to dash hopes of more visas for Irish workers
A law that would allow Irish workers fresh access to thousands of US visas looks increasingly less likely to be passed by the US Senate.
Every year 10,500 E-3 visas are offered to Australians who want to work in the US - but only about half are used.
Ireland wants to be added to the E-3 programme and access the unused visas. This would also help undocumented Irish workers.
The Government is working on a reciprocal arrangement which would enable Americans to work in Ireland on a similar basis and ease restrictions on US citizens who wish to retire here.
However, in order for Ireland to access the E-3 programme, legislation needs to be passed by the US Congress and so far only the House of Representatives voted in favour of the deal.
In the Senate, six Republican senators put "holds" on the bill. All of these were lifted in recent days, but another senator has put a hold on the bill.
If it doesn't pass this weekend a new bill will have to be initiated because the House of Representatives will sit for the first time under new membership in 2019. E-3 visas are valid for two years, but may be renewed indefinitely and also allow the spouses to work in the US.
Applicants must have a specialised occupation, a legitimate offer of employment and possess the necessary qualifications.