GOVERNMENT > Foreign Policy and International Affairs > Visas > The Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program (Walsh Visa Program)
The Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program (Walsh Visa Program)
The Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program is a groundbreaking cultural exchange and employment-training program that enables young people from Northern Ireland and the six border counties of the Republic of Ireland to live and work in the United States for up to 24 months.
The Program offers eligible men and women access to a non-immigrant, Q-2 work visa, providing them a wide range of employment and vocational training opportunities in selected hub cities in the U.S. In addition, the Program offers conflict resolution training and a variety of activities to involve participants in our diverse society. The goal of the Program is to help these men and women develop and enhance their personal and professional skills and then return to their respective countries as productive and skilled members of the workforce.
The Program is referred to as the Walsh Visa Program in honor of Congressman James Walsh of New York who introduced and sponsored the legislation that became Public Law 105-319 and is the Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program Act of 1998. Mr. Walsh’s vision for the Program is best expressed in his own words:
“The purpose of the legislation is twofold. On an economic level, we want to nurture prosperity which leads to tolerance. On a social level, we want to share our multi-cultural experience and the lessons we’ve learned. This visa represents an American commitment to provide support for the peace process and all that it promises for the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland.”
The U.S. Department of State (DOS), Bureau of European Affairs, is charged with overall authority for the Program. The DOS provides management direction, formulates policies and procedures, and coordinates implementation with representatives of the governments of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The DOS selected Northrop Grumman to nationally implement and administer the Program.
As non-immigrants working in the U.S., Q-2 visa holders are subject to the Immigration and Nationality Act. Title 8 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations defines the terms and conditions of the Q-2 visa as one which is employer-specific. Participants may only be employed by the Program-approved employer named on their certifying documentation.
The pilot phase of the Program was initiated and implemented during 2000. That first year, over 350 Program participants were welcomed into Washington, D.C. and Colorado Springs. In 2001, three new hubs, Pittsburgh, Boston, and Syracuse, were added and the Program was expanded to include a new category of Q-2 visa holders. 170 participants arrived in 2001, followed by another 333 in 2002. During 2003, 380 new participants entered the Program.
Congress amended the original law in 2002 and under Public Law 107-234, extended the Walsh Visa Program through September 2003. The Program has maintained support for participants who arrived in the U.S. during the extension period, but no new visas were granted during 2004.
In December 2004, Congress again amended the legislation. Public Law 108-449 extended and amended the Program through September 30, 2008. The updated legislation changed the duration of stay in the US from three years to two years, increased the residence requirement to 18 months and the unemployment requirement to 12 months. Additionally, the age minimum was raised from 18 to 21, with the upper limit remaining at 35. Eligibility has been restricted to individuals who are not graduates of higher education institutions.
More than 75 participants arrived in the 2006 program year and will complete their program by September 30, 2008.
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