On the 16th of June 2014, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Francis Fitzgerald, in conjunction with her British counterpart, the UK Home Secretary Theresa May, announced the introduction of a new British Irish Visa Scheme. This joint initiative between the INIS and UK Home Office will allow holders of a single visa to travel free throughout the Common Travel Area (CTA) of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK, which has operated between our countries since 1922. The scheme will commence in the autumn, initially being available to Chinese and Indian nationals.
Under the current system, for a substantial number of foreign tourists and business people wishing to visit both the UK and Ireland, it is necessary to acquire separate visas for each country and, even more inconvenient, where they are returning to their original destination, a re-entry visa must be sought. The new scheme eliminates this barrier by operating in a reciprocal manner, allowing Chinese or Indian nationals, holding a single short-stay visa from the country of first entry within the CTA, to freely travel between Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK without the necessity of extra visas. For example, a person doing business in London may travel on the same visa, that allowed entry into the UK, to Dublin.
This ‘historic development’ and cooperation between he UK and Irish governments aims to significantly increase the number of tourists and business people travelling to both countries and in turn, positively impact the economy while still ensuring the necessary security measures are adhered to. In a press release announcing the scheme, Minister Fitzgerald stated that “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”.
While announcing the scheme in London, UK Home secretary Theresa May outlined the benefits of such schemes and the advantages of continued cooperation between the Irish and UK governments, “Joint initiatives such as this will help to attract more Chinese and Indian visitors to both the UK and Ireland, while also ensuring the robust management of our borders. We look forward to on-going work with Ireland towards our shared objectives of promoting growth and preventing the abuse of our immigration systems.”
The new scheme will replace the current Short-Stay Visa Wavier Programme which allows nationals of 18 different countries who are visiting the UK to enter Ireland on their UK visa. Since its introduction in July of 2011, records show that the number of tourists from these countries grew by a staggering 68%. This demonstrates the potential success of the new scheme and the prosperity and growth it is expected to bring.
The press release announcing the scheme can be viewed here: