Almost 50,000 Irish took up visas in Australia and Canada last year

Hope for ‘tucked away’ provision in US bill for 10,500 visas for Irish citizens

Australia’s famous rocky landmarks known as the Devil’s Marbles in the outback. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters

Australia’s famous rocky landmarks known as the Devil’s Marbles in the outback. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters

 

Almost 50,000 Irish people took up visas in Australia and Canada last year, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

More than 25,800 Irish people received working holiday visas for Australia last year; 4,500 Irish-born citizens became permanent residents of Australia; and 645 were given student visas, said Niall Burgess of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

In Canada, 6,680 Irish people were given temporary visas, more than 6,000 were given working visas and 5,350 were given working holiday visas.

The number of Irish going to the US had also increased in recent years, with the number of Irish networks the department was in touch with growing from three or four in the major cities to 14 networks across the US.

There were “very good grounds for optimism” that a US immigration Bill would pass, which would give legal status to undocumented migrants, including Irish citizens. The law could be in place and operational by the middle of next year, he said. A provision in the Bill for 10,500 working visas each year for Irish citizens was “tucked away” in a non-prominent part of the legislation.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore had been working “to ensure quiet support for this” so that if questions are raised about it there would be “those who will stand by it”, Mr Burgess added.

Minister for Europe Lucinda Creighton told the committee she hoped by the end of June Serbia would be given a date for EU accession negotiations to start, Kosovo would advance towards a stabilisation and association agreement, while Turkey would have an extra area of talks opened on the way to EU membership.