A bill which could give Irish workers access to thousands of US visas every year has been passed by the US House of Representatives.

The plan to add Ireland to the E-3 visa programme will now be voted on by the US Senate.

In November 2018, the House of Representatives voted in favour of a previous E-3 visa deal but it failed to get the unanimous support that was required in the US Senate.

One Republican Senator, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, blocked the bill.

The bill was reintroduced in the US House of Representatives by Democratic Congressman Richard Neal last May and today it was unanimously passed.

Every year, more than 10,500 E-3 visas are offered to Australians who want to work in the US, but only around half of them are taken up.

Ireland wants to be able to access the remaining unused visas.

The Irish Government is working on a reciprocal arrangement, which would ease restrictions on Americans who wish to retire to Ireland and enable US citizens to work in Ireland on a similar basis.

E-3 visas are for two years, but can be renewed indefinitely. They allow the spouses of recipients to work in the US, but not their children.

In order to qualify, applicants must be employed in a speciality occupation, have a legitimate offer of employment in the US and possess the necessary academic or other qualifying credentials.