The Taoiseach has said he hopes to make progress on securing a new visa agreement with the US during his visit for St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Brian Cowen said the Government hoped to secure a new deal that could see thousands of workers travel freely between Ireland and the US for a period of two years.

The US agreed late last year that 20,000 Irish citizens could apply for year-long working visits. In return, 5,000 US citizens were allowed to come to Ireland.

Mr Cowen said he is hoping for an agreement that would resemble the arrangement between the US and Australia that allows for up to 10,000 visas issued each year.

The Taoiseach is also expected to outline plans in New York tonight for a new council that would speak for Irish America all year round.

The announcement follows the first detailed study of relations between the US and Ireland since the 1930s.

A strategic policy committee, headed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, will also aim to further strengthen business and cultural links with the US.