“At present persons granted an Irish visa are not permitted to use that visa to travel to the UK.”

Not that we didn’t already know that…  However, the Northern Ireland Tourism Minister, the DUP’s Arlene Foster, fielded a number of NI Assembly questions back in Feb/March on the issue of the Irish Government’s “Visa Waiver Scheme for nationals of 16 countries who hold a valid visa for entry into the United Kingdom.”

Here is one of her answers

I discussed this issue with Hugo Swire, NIO Minister of State last month.

The Republic of Ireland, ROI, introduced a visa waiver programme, operating for nationals of 16 countries for a trial period from July 2011 to October 2012, in order to seek to attract visitors to Ireland who hold a valid visa for entry into the UK. Under the programme, nationals of those countries arriving in the UK with a valid UK visa are able to enter the RoI without any further documentation. However, if they enter the RoI on an Irish visa they cannot then enter UK. They cannot therefore visit NI.

I have raised the issue of a reciprocal visa waiver scheme for those entering NI with a valid Irish visa. I understand there are security and resource implications which currently prevent the introduction of such a scheme. I will continue to raise this issue with both Governments.

As the Londonderry Sentinel reported at the start of April

TOURISTS from 16 Asian, Balkan and Middle Eastern countries holidaying in the Republic of Ireland on valid Irish visas will not be allowed into UK City of Culture 2013 unless they apply for a separate UK visa.

Tourist Minister Arlene Foster revealed holidaymakers from a range of countries with valid Irish visas are not allowed into Londonderry due to “security” and resource” considerations. Tourists from the same 16 countries holidaying here on UK visas are now allowed to travel to Donegal.

But tourists from two of the most populous countries in the world – China and India – will not be allowed to pay a flying visit to Londonderry even if they are visiting Buncrana as valid Irish visa holders.

Tourists from the Russian Federation, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, Belarus, Montenegro, Serbia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan will also need to apply for separate UK and Irish visas if they want to cross the border.

Let’s hope the NI First and deputy First Ministers clarified that issue on their recent jaunt to three of those countries[We wouldn’t want a diplomatic incident in the UK City of Culture – Ed]  Indeed.

And given that the NI Tourism Minister has been “[raising] this issue with both Governments” here’s another snippet of information that might have been included in her answers.  From Dáil Written Answers 18 April

[Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter)]  At present persons granted an Irish visa are not permitted to use that visa to travel to the UK. This is primarily due to the UK requirement that all visa applicants supply fingerprint (biometrics) data electronically as an essential element of applying for a UK visa. Quite obviously Ireland does not have the capacity to capture such data for all visa applications worldwide; currently for UK visas this is done in over 150 countries.

However, I can inform the Deputy that in December 2011, together with the UK’s Immigration Minister, I signed an agreement which, among other things, commits both countries to developing a Common Travel Area visa. Such a visa would allow tourists and business visitors to travel to the Common Travel Area and to travel freely between Ireland and the UK. It is anticipated that such a visa will prove an attractive option for tourists and business visitors and it is intended to conduct a trial scheme which will be used to gauge likely demand and to resolve the substantial practical issues around its introduction. [added emphasis]

We never did have that reasoned debate about Schengen…

Adds  That agreement would appear to be the memorandum of understanding referred to here.

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  • Pete Baker

    Adds That agreement would appear to be the memorandum of understanding referred to here.

  • galloglaigh

    It’s the same the other way about. I work with a Chinese guy whose girlfriend was flying into Dublin last Summer. He didn’t have a visa to enter the Republic. I think he drove down anyway, but it’s a ridiculous set of rules.

  • Pete Baker

    “It’s the same the other way about”

    Not at the minute it’s not, galloglaigh.

    The Republic of Ireland, ROI, introduced a visa waiver programme, operating for nationals of 16 countries for a trial period from July 2011 to October 2012, in order to seek to attract visitors to Ireland who hold a valid visa for entry into the UK. Under the programme, nationals of those countries arriving in the UK with a valid UK visa are able to enter the RoI without any further documentation.

  • Barnshee

    I am baffled by this – How exactly will an individual be stopped from travelling south/north (or v v) Immigration posts at the border??

  • Drumlins Rock

    Barnshee, it isn’t at the border but if they were to have contact with authorities in NI or any other part of the UK, ie. police, flights within UK, possibly even a trafic offence, they would be in the UK illegally and liable to detention or deportation, and would also face travel problems in future. It is also something you need to watch out for with people from outside the EU coming here on a temporty work visa, entry through Dublin does not qualify. The UK, Ireland, IoM & Channel Islands should be one travel area, immigration controls at the border or across the Irish sea should be equally unacceptable.

  • Harry Flashman

    “The UK, Ireland, IoM & Channel Islands should be one travel area,”

    Well in fairness it’s because the UK and Ireland, for the citizens of those countries, is a free travel area that the Irish in particular are so keen to enforce the visa rules, in the same way that they stayed out of Schengen.

    The Irish are very sensitive about the free travel between the two islands and the last thing they want is for the British to start setting up immigration checks for Irish citizens going to Britain or heaven forfend at the border.

    So, as I mentioned in the previous thread on this subject, the Irish work extremely closely with their UK counterparts to ensure that they don’t allow Ireland to become a back door entry point to Britain, where immigration is a rather more hot button issue.

  • Barnshee

    “The Irish are very sensitive about the free travel between the two islands and the last thing they want is for the British to start setting up immigration checks for Irish citizens going to Britain or heaven forfend at the border”

    In a previous life I had a “relationship” with the then immigration service. London hierarchy members regarded N Irelands place in the UK a “Fu***** nuisance “at best and a disaster at worst since the presence of NI in the UK and the subsequent ” free movement ” via N Ireland created the “common travel area. Sloughing off N Ireland would allow the UK to adopt a more proactive approach to Irish Traffic if necessary (within EU rules of course)

  • Drumlins Rock

    which makes a very good reason for citizens of the RoI to resist a United Ireland! The last government very nearly slipped restrictions through btw, it was the UUP & Conservative Lords who got it blocked at the last minute.