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Joint UK / Republic of Ireland visa scheme announced

The Law Centre welcomes this week’s announcement that the British and Irish governments have agreed a joint visa scheme. The scheme will allow visitors from outside the EU who are holders of short-term visas to move freely within the two jurisdictions on a single permit.

The scheme only applies to certain UK visitors and initially will begin with visitors from China and India. We understand that the scheme will gradually be extended to other nationalities.

The UK and Ireland are part of the Common Travel Area, which allows free movement for their citizens across the island of Ireland. EEA nationals and their family members also have free movement due to European law. However, overseas nationals do not have free movement. The current arrangements can cause confusion and hardship: the Law Centre is aware of overseas nationals who, not understanding visa requirements, have been detained after moving into the other jurisdiction.

The Law Centre has worked on this issue with our sister organisations in the Republic of Ireland for a number of years. We have consistently argued that mutual visas are beneficial (for example for free movement, family life, tourism, etc) and would reduce the risk of ethnic profiling, which is prohibited in international law. Therefore, while the underlying purpose of this scheme is to boost tourism and business travel, the scheme is also good for human rights. We look forward to its extension.

More information about the scheme can be found here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/british-irish-visa-scheme

A BBC news article is here: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-29509552

Please note: If you are not sure whether this scheme applies to you, we strongly advise you to obtain immigration advice before travelling to the Republic of Ireland. Our immigration advice line runs Mon – Fri 9.30 – 1pm, 028 9024 44001

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