Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Destination in Focus: New York

Practical advice on visas, finding a job and a place to live in New York, with useful links to Irish organisations, social and business networks and emergency assistance, prepared in collaboration with the Emerald Isle Immigration Center.

Thu, Dec 22, 2011, 16:37


Prepared in collaboration with the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, New York.

New York remains a hugely popular destination for Irish emigrants thanks to its wealth of opportunity and its reputation as a diverse and exciting city. As a hub of the services industries, it is a driving force behind the US economy and though recession has affected the city, New York’s economy is improving gradually.

Historically, New York and the Tri-State Area (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) have been among the most popular destinations for Irish emigrants, though the numbers have varied with the changing visa and economic climate. In the last century, many Irish came to New York in the fifties and sixties and then again in the late eighties and early nineties, during times of economic boom in New York when opportunity was plentiful and visas were on offer. As a result of a strict immigration regime and economic contraction, the last decade has seen smaller numbers of new Irish arriving, though the community remains a thriving and vital outpost of Irish culture.


The most common visas for Irish people who are coming to the US to live and work are employment sponsorship visas like a H1B visa, or for recent graduates of third level institutions, the J1 12-Month Intern Work and Travel Program. Employment sponsorship requires you to have a US company that wants to hire you and is willing to go through the immigration process for you. It also involves considerable lawyer’s fee that will vary by visa and case.

The following is a list of the most common temporary visas to work in the U.S.:

The H-1B temporary work visa category for those within “specialty occupations” that require at least a college or university degree or the equivalent to perform (subject to a 65,000 annual quota).
The H-2B category is available for certain intermittent, peak-load or seasonal work (also subject to a cap).
The H-3 and J-1 categories are available for those receiving training or internships in the U.S.
E-1/E-2 petitions can be filed if a treaty with the person’s home country exists and the U.S. company is owned at least 50% by individuals or entities with that same nationality.
I petitions can be filed for foreign media workers (note that this is not available for regular employment of a media worker in the U.S., but only for foreign media workers temporarily in the U.S. on behalf of a foreign entity).
L-1 petitions can be filed for certain internal transfers from related companies abroad.
O petitions can be filed for individuals of extraordinary ability in their field.
P petitions can be filed for certain coaches, athletes, entertainers and culturally unique performers.
R petitions can be filed for religious workers.
TN petitions can be filed for nationals of Canada or Mexico working in a listed occupation.
The “B-1 in lieu of H-1B or H-3″ category is available for individuals who will remain on foreign payroll while on a brief work trip to the U.S. This category is highly scrutinized.
Individuals may wish to enroll in a U.S. school to obtain F-1 or M-1 full-time student status and attend college in the US.

The DV Lottery offers applicants the chance to win a Greencard. It receives applications for a month each autumn, with results posted the following May. Beware of scams regarding this program.

See the US Embassy website or the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website for more information on visa types and the application process.

The information provided here is not a substitute for Legal Immigration advice. Immigration law is complex and subject to change. For additional details contact Emerald Isle and ask for Immigration assistance: 718/478-5502 or 718/324-3039

J1 IWT candidates will need to contact an agency in Ireland that handles the visa: USIT, Go4Less, or

NOTE: At the time of writing (December 2011) There are currently two bills pending in the US Senate to create an E-3 visa category for Irish nationals to permit temporary employment for specialty occupations requiring a college or university degree, similar to the H-1B visa category and E-3 visa category for Australians.

Find a job

New York City has an employment rate of 8.9%, close to the national average.

New York is a financial centre and Wall Street is constantly hiring talented finance graduates. The legal sector is a major employer in Manhattan, while there is also considerable media and I.T. opportunities. New York remains a centre for the arts and its cultural institutions employ many people. There are many non-profits and NGOs, many based around the United Nations, which frequently have vacancies. There are also quite a few jobs in the retail sector.

Construction, a traditional employer of Irish emigrants, remains quite stagnant. Emerald Isle provides job leads to emigrants, linking employers with candidates, but does not screen clients or perform background checks.

There are innumerable recruitment agencies in New York, but Irish people who are not eligible to work in the US through Citizenship or residency will not find much use for them. J1 candidates are not permitted to use an agency, while people find it extremely difficult to use a recruiter as a means to obtain employment sponsorship.

Some useful websites (non-profit sector), (jobs in the media),,

Résumés are hugely important in your job search and differ in some ways from the curriculum vitae in Ireland. Finding a template online is a good start. You will need to reduce it to one page, often beginning with an “objectives” sentence outlining your desirability as a candidate.

J1 IWT students should be aware that their visa restricts them to work in an internship that relates to their area of study.

The minimum wage in New York State is $7.25.

Find a place to live

Renting in New York is a tricky process and many people who arrive in the city will aim to stay with friends for up to two weeks. Outside of real estate agents the best place to find an apartment is on Do not try and secure a place from Ireland through Craigslist, in order to get a rental through the site you need to be on the ground and there is a high chance of being scammed if you are abroad. See Craigslist’s own anti-fraud guidelines for help. is also useful.

Shares will generally have communal furniture and unfurnished bedrooms, while an entire apartment will most likely be unfurnished.

Ikea is located in Red Hook in Brooklyn and you can make a day of it by taking the Ikea Ferry from Wall Street. Housing Works are located at various points in the city and sell second hand furniture at great prices. There’s great value available in many local thrift stores and flea markets, but beware of bedbugs, avoid buying anything upholstered from a second hand shop and your mattress new.

Rent varies greatly, and most new arrivals will find Manhattan outside their price range. Brooklyn is expensive, though as you get further from the city prices decrease. The ball-park figure for a two bed in a Brooklyn neighbourhood would be approximately $1800. In many areas of Queens you could get a two bed for about $1400 – $1500. Many Irish people have settled in the North –East Bronx neighbourhood of Woodlawn and neighbouring Yonkers, where rents will be cheaper than the city, but residents face a commute to the city and attendant costs.

Some utilities are usually included in rent. Heating and water are usually included, though gas and power are mainly separate. You will need to contact the utilities personally to open an account if they are not covered by the landlord. Don’t assume because they work that they will continue to do so without an account. Heating is a major issue in New York, so make sure the building is built to withstand the seriously cold temperatures of January and February. AC is obviously a summer consideration and something you should be prepared to budget for.

Bedbugs are also an issue, but they are indiscriminate and therefore difficult to avoid. Steer clear of places with extremely high turnover of tenants and common sense may also help you avoid them.

Websites like, and are useful for helping you decide what area of the city you would like to live in.

Irish clubs, business and social networks

Emerald Isle Immigration Center:, or on Facebook

Irish Network New York City:

Irish Business Organization:   www.IBO-NY.COM

New York Ancient Order of Hibernians:

New York GAA:

United Irish Counties Association:

Brehon Law Society:


Emerald Isle Immigration Center:

Aisling Irish Center:

New York Irish Center:

Consulate General of Ireland in New York:

Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers:

Irish Center in Mineola, Long Island:

Irish News

Home and Away:

Irish Echo:

Irish Central:

Irish Emigrant:

Irish Radio:

The Adrian Flannelly Show:

Radio Irish:

WFUV Radio:

This Destination in Focus was prepared in collaboration with the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, a not-for-profit organization that provides legal, social and job seeker services to immigrants in New York. The organization was founded in 1988  in the wake of the Irish Immigration Reform Movement’s campaign for visas for Irish immigrants. Its offices are located in Woodside, Queens and Woodlawn in the Bronx. More details are available at, where you can subscribe to its newsletter.

If you have any tips or suggestions for new arrivals or those considering a move to New York, please add them in the comments section below.