UK-Ireland Travel: A Guide for Visa Nationals
In two previous posts, we explained the impact of the Common Travel Area (CTA) on travel between the UK and Ireland. In our first post, we explained how non-visa nationals may automatically benefit from “deemed leave” when travelling within the CTA – for example, from London to Dublin and back. In our second post, we explained how travel works for British citizens and their family members going to Ireland, and for Irish citizens and their family members coming to the UK.
As explained in our previous post, “visa nationals” – i.e. nationals of countries listed in the visa national list of Appendix Visitor to the Immigration Rules – do not benefit from deemed leave. As such, this post provides an overview of how travel between the UK and Ireland works for visa nationals who are in the UK with some form of permission to be in the UK. It will explain how travel works for those in the UK with a short-term visa, and for those with longer term forms of permission, including indefinite leave to remain (ILR).
As with our previous posts, please note that we are only able to advise on UK immigration law, and we cannot advise on Irish immigration law. Any references to elements of Irish law are only intended as a starting point, and do not constitute advice on Irish immigration law. For further information on Irish immigration law, you may wish to consult the Irish Immigration Service webpage, or a lawyer qualified to advise on Irish immigration law.
I Have a Short-Term UK Visa – How Does Visiting Ireland Work?
If you are a visa national in the UK on a short-term visa (e.g. a six-month UK Visitor visa), the default position is that you still need to apply for an Irish visa to visit Ireland.
However, there are a number of exceptions to this. You do not need a visa to enter Ireland as a Visitor if:
- You have a valid Irish residence permit, or a travel document issued by Ireland;
- You are a citizen of a country in Ireland’s list of non-visa-required nationalities;
- You have a residence card issued by an EEA country or Switzerland, as you are a family member of an EEA/Swiss citizen who is living in the EEA/Switzerland but outside of their home country (e.g. you are an Egyptian national with a French residence card, because you normally live in France with your Swedish spouse);
- You are a Ukrainian citizen; or
- You have a short-term UK visa, and you qualify for either Ireland’s Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme or the British-Irish Visa Scheme (see below).
Short-Stay Visa Waiver Programme
If you are a national of an eligible country (in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and South America), and you entered the UK on an eligible short-stay visa, you may benefit from Ireland’s Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme.
According to the Irish Immigration Service webpage, the UK visas that are eligible for the Programme are “UK short-stay visit visas”, except for those issued to “visitors in transit” or “visitors seeking to marry or to enter a civil partnership”. The webpage also states that “long-term visitors” to the UK – including those on long-term Student visas and persons seeking to join a spouse or for family reunification (though none of these entail true “Visitor” visas in UK immigration law) – are not eligible for the Programme.
While the concept of “UK short-stay visitor visas” is not fully defined on the webpage, there are references to periods of leave to remain in the UK for “up to a maximum of 180 days each time”. As such, it would appear that qualifying UK visas are those granted for up to 180 days.
However, given the webpage’s rather flexible use of the word “visitor”, it is slightly unclear whether the excluded category of “visitors seeking to marry or to enter a civil partnership” includes those in the UK on Fiancé visas, as well as those in the UK on Marriage Visitor visas. Further, unlike other pages on the site, the webpage does not specify whether Permitted Paid Engagement visas are eligible or ineligible. If either of these situations is applicable to you, please consult a lawyer qualified to advise on Irish immigration law for further clarification.
If you are eligible for this Programme, you can travel from the UK into Ireland without applying for an Irish visa. You can then stay in Ireland as a Visitor for the shorter of: (i) the length of permission remaining on your short-stay UK visa, or (ii) 90 days. For example, if you had 20 days remaining on your UK short-stay visa, you would only be able to stay in Ireland under this Programme for 20 days. By way of further example, if you had 100 days remaining on your UK short-stay visa, you would only be able to stay in Ireland for 90 days, in line with the Programme’s overall time limit.
Note that the Programme only applies if you first use your short-stay UK visa to lawfully enter the UK, and then travel on to Ireland. However, this also includes the scenario where you enter the UK using your UK short-stay visa, travel elsewhere, but still have time remaining on your UK permission. In this case, you can travel directly to Ireland from the third country, and stay in Ireland for the length of permission remaining on your UK short-stay visa.
British-Irish Visa Scheme
The British-Irish Visa Scheme (BIVS) allows eligible Indian and Chinese nationals to visit both the UK and Ireland using a single Irish short-stay visa or a single UK Visitor visa.
You are eligible for BIVS if, at the time of application, you are an Indian national living in India or a Chinese national living in China (including those living in Hong Kong and Macau).
As an eligible person, the Scheme applies to you if:
- You hold an eligible Irish visa (visit (family/friend), visit (tourist), conference/event, business); or
- You hold an eligible UK visa (all standard Visitor visas where the maximum period for a single visit is 6 months, and Permitted Paid Engagement visas – but not visas for “visitor in transit” or “visitor for marriage or civil partnership”).
Please note that, similarly to the Short-Stay Visa Waiver Programme, the BIVS only operates if you first travel to whichever country issued your short-stay or Visitor visa before travelling on to the other country. For example, if you hold an Irish short-stay visa, you must first travel to Ireland before coming to the UK. Likewise, if you hold a UK Visitor visa, you must first come to the UK before travelling on to Ireland.
In addition, in order to avail of the BIVS, your visa must be endorsed by an immigration officer with the letters “BIVS”. Please note that there is no right of appeal against a decision not to endorse a visa in this way.
As with the Short-Stay Visa Waiver Programme, the maximum period of time you will be able to remain in Ireland under the BIVS is the shorter of: (i) the length of permission remaining on your UK Visitor visa, or (ii) 90 days.
Given that Irish short-stay visas are only granted for up to 90 days, the maximum period of time you will be able to remain in the UK under the BIVS will be the length of permission remaining on your Irish short-stay visa, which will at most be 90 days.
I Have a Long-Term UK Visa or Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) – How Does Visiting Ireland Work?
If you do not have a valid UK short-stay visa (as discussed above), and you do not qualify for any of the other exceptions listed above (e.g. Irish residence permit or travel document, non-visa required national, relevant EEA/Swiss residence card, Ukrainian citizenship), you must apply for an Irish visa to visit Ireland.
Entering Ireland for a Longer Period
If you are a visa national in the UK with permission (whether on a short-term visa or long-term visa), and you want to enter Ireland for longer than 90 days, you must normally apply for the Irish visa or preclearance relevant to your reason for entering Ireland (e.g. work, study, joining family).
Though having a long-term UK visa or ILR will not exempt you from the requirement to apply for an Irish visa, it may mean that you are exempt from paying the visa fee.
For more information on applying for Irish visas, please see the Irish government website.
Contact our Immigration Barristers
Please note that the information in this blog post is current at the time of writing, and is subject to change, particularly in relation to the full roll-out of the UK Electronic Travel Authorisation requirements.
For expert advice regarding travel and entry to the UK, or regarding your immigration status in the UK, contact our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.