|With UK Home Secretary Theresa May|
• Major boost to business visitors and tourism expected
Local TD Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Justice and Equality, today announced the extension of the British-Irish Visa Scheme to India.
The British-Irish Visa Scheme facilitates nationals requiring a short-stay visa to travel freely within the Common Travel Area using a single visa issued by either Ireland or the UK.
This will mean that tourists, business visitors and other eligible visitors from India will be able, for the first time, to visit both the UK and Ireland, including moving freely between north and south of the island of Ireland on a single visa.
The Minister said: “Following the very successful launch of the scheme for China in October last, it has now been extended to India. This decision is taken jointly by the Irish and UK authorities with the aim of boosting tourism and business travel to our countries.
The British-Irish Visa Scheme is a unique opportunity for the tourism promotion bodies on both islands to jointly promote tourism travel to Ireland and the UK. With that objective Tourism Ireland and Visit Britain are working together to market the British-Irish Visa Scheme in China and India.”
Minister Fitzgerald went on to say that Ireland and UK are fully committed to working together to enhance and strengthen the Common Travel Area, including taking all necessary measures to preserve its integrity and security. A landmark agreement for the sharing of immigration data between both countries’ immigration authorities was signed last autumn to underpin the sharing of visa data in tandem with the implementation of new visa arrangements. This incorporates the collection of biometrics as part of the Irish visa application process and systems are now in place to facilitate the automated and seamless sharing and cross-checking of information.
The Minister stated: “While on the one hand we are removing barriers of borderless travel between our countries to genuine visitors within the Common Travel Area, on the other we must cooperate to the greatest extent possible to protect our borders from abuse. To achieve this balance the Irish and British immigration authorities are increasing cooperation to prevent persons from entering our countries who have no right to be here.”
The aim of the British-Irish Visa Scheme is to facilitate and promote legitimate travel to Ireland and the UK by visa required tourists and business visitors while also strengthening the external border of the Common Travel Area (CTA).
Further rollout of the Scheme to other countries will be agreed between the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of the Department of Justice and Equality and the UK Home Office.
The British-Irish Visa Scheme in practice – the Scheme will operate through a reciprocal visa arrangement, whereby Ireland and the UK recognise short-stay visas issued by the other for travel to their jurisdiction. This will allow the holder of such a visa issued by the country of first arrival thereafter to travel freely between Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland, for the duration of that visa.
For example, a visa required tourist from India who wishes to visit both Dublin and Belfast will be able to apply for an Irish short-stay visa which will allow them to travel directly to Dublin and then onwards to Northern Ireland without having to obtain a separate UK visa. Also if they are returning to Ireland following a visit to the UK, they will not require a re-entry visa.
As the British-Irish Visa Scheme is rolled out it 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 from a number of 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 allows travel throughout the UK and Ireland, whereas the Irish Visa Waiver Programme allowed travel in one direction only.