British – Irish Visa Waiver – Short Stay Visa Waiver Programme
The British – Irish Visa Waiver for non-Irish citizens who are continuously residing in Ireland to seek a visa waiver to travel to Northern Ireland appears to have been scrapped.
The Irish government had opposed the clause, stating that it would cause problems for non-Irish or non-British residents living all across the island, especially those near the border. According to the UK government, the new requirement will be easy and light-handed and intended to “strengthen our border.”
On March 9, 2023, the UK government released a set of guidelines for Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) that incorporated the amendment. Short-term non-visa travellers to the UK would be required to submit biometric information when applying for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA), a system similar to the visa waiver program used in the US.
People legally residing in Ireland and the ones not requiring a visa to visit the UK already have guaranteed free movement under the terms of the Common Travel Area, so they won’t need an ETA when crossing the border or arriving in Britain from Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey, or the Isle of Man, according to the information that has been made public.
The visa waiver, however, would have required an application from non-Irish EU citizens and other international passport holders, including those who reside permanently south of the border.
The countries eligible to benefit from this programme include – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine from Eastern Europe; Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia from the Middle East; India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, People’s Republic of China, Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Vietnam from Asia; and Colombia and Peru from South America.
One wouldn’t need the British – Irish Visa Waiver Programme, if:
- You are the holder of a UK long-stay visa, such as a family reunification, student, or work visa.
- You have a UK Transit visa.
- You want to marry or enter a civil partnership.
Opinions from the authority: British – Irish Visa Waiver
Stephen Farry, MP and deputy leader of the Alliance Party, described the move as a “welcome development” after bringing it up with the Taoiseach and the UK prime minister.
The fact that it “now facilitates the tens of thousands of people who cross to Northern Ireland on a regular, even daily, basis for work, shopping, access to education and leisure, to visit family and friends, and for many other reasons,” he claimed, is crucial. He claimed that an answer was still required from island of Ireland visitors.
In addition, the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance (NITA) expressed dissatisfaction, saying it was “incredibly disappointed” that visitors had not been included after extensive conversations with the Home Office.
Given that 70% of visitors arrive via Dublin, NITA Chief Executive Dr. Joanne Stuart stated that the decision “puts 25% of all tourism spend in Northern Ireland at risk.”
In keeping with the UK Government’s broader policy aims, she stated, “We believe that a temporary exemption for foreign visitors travelling from Dublin to Northern Ireland could have been delivered.”
The ETA program, which will be implemented in phases later this year, is a component of the UK government’s post-Brexit tightening of immigration law.
Non-Irish EU and EEA citizens, as well as non-British or non-Irish citizens from other countries who previously did not need a visa to enter the UK, would have had to apply for an ETA before crossing the Border under the prior arrangements. This would have required the submission of biometric fingerprint and facial data.
The Irish government, other political parties, and human rights organisations rejected the plans, which sparked riots in border regions.