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    US-Irish visa deal signed

    By Noreen Bowden | September 24, 2008

    A long-awaited working holiday visa agreement with the US has been announced. The deal will set up one-year work exchange programme between Ireland and the US, allowing 20,000 Irish school-leavers to work in the US, and 5,000 Irish citizens to work in Ireland.

    The exact terms of the agreement have not yet been reported, but the Irish Times says that the schemed is aimed at those Irish who are in or have recently completed post-secondary education. There is no further information yet on whether the requirements for Americans will be the same.

    The deal was signed today in Washington by Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin, and US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte.

    The deal is not aimed at alleviating the situation of the undocumented. Instead, the government views it as an investment in the Irish-American relationship.  “By working and travelling for a relatively lengthy period in each others’ countries, our young people will build important connections which will help maintain our very close ties to the US,” said the Minister.

    In an era of declining emigration to the US, the Irish government has been actively seeking ways to maintain the US-Irish relationship. Minister Martin noted that it was part of a three-pronged strategy:

    “Today’s announcement is just one element in our three pronged approach involving a solution for our undocumented; new bilateral arrangements to provide reciprocal long term working visas (known as E3s) and the Working Holiday Agreement. Finding a solution for our undocumented remains a key priority for this Government.?

    While most Irish coverage of the event naturally focuses on the visas for Irish people, the visas for Americans is also a substantial development. There has been much anecdotal evidence in recent years that there is a strong desire among Americans for an opportunity to work in Ireland. Ireland’s provision of this channel is a positive step in the right direction, and will certainly help to underpin the Irish-American relationship in years to come.

    See the news report in the Irish Times.

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