The UK Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, T.D. recently announced that a new ‘British Irish Visa Scheme’ between Ireland and the United Kingdom will commence in the UK autumn, starting with China and India.
Currently visitors to the UK require separate visas for UK and Northern Ireland. The British Irish Visa Scheme will allow for travel to and around the Common Travel Area (CTA) on a single visa.
From autumn visitors from China and India (including tourists and business visitors) will be able to travel freely within the Common Travel Area using either an Irish or UK visa.
Minister Fitzgerald said the British Irish Visa Scheme, jointly initiated by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of her Department and the UK Home Office, “will make it easier and more attractive for visitors to visit Ireland and the UK and is expected to provide a major boost to tourism and business visitors.
“China and India will be the first to benefit from this groundbreaking Scheme and I look forward to the successful implementation of the new arrangements in respect of both of those countries.”
The Minister emphasised that the Scheme “marked an historic development in the relationship between Ireland and the UK and in the operation of the Common Travel Area which has existed between the two countries since 1922.”
“Both countries are committed now more than ever before to working together on visa and border matters and the British Irish Visa Scheme reflects that unprecedented level of cooperation.”
“Building on the success of the Irish Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme introduced by the Government in July 2011, the British Irish Visa Scheme will enable both countries’ immigration systems to work in tandem to promote and facilitate legitimate tourism and business travel to Ireland and the UK while also strengthening the external borders of the Common Travel Area.”
“It is anticipated that this initiative will make a significant and lasting contribution to the economic prosperity and security of both our countries, including Northern Ireland as visitors to Ireland will now be able to visit Northern Ireland without having to obtain a separate UK visa.”
UK Home Secretary Theresa May who also announced the Scheme at an event in London said: “Our two governments are proud of what the UK and Ireland have to offer to Chinese and Indian visitors and we look forward to welcoming many more to our countries through this new Scheme.
The British Irish Visa Scheme will replace Ireland’s Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme, introduced in July, 2011, which has proved to be a significant success. That Programme allows nationals of 18 countries to travel from the UK to Ireland using their UK visa. The number of visitors from the countries in question grew by 68% from 2010 to 2013. The British Irish Visa Scheme will allow travel throughout the UK and Ireland, whereas the Irish Visa Waiver Programme allowed travel in one direction only.