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The British-Irish Visa Scheme

The British-Irish Visa Scheme

The British-Irish Visa Scheme (BIVS) permits Chinese and Indian nationals to enter both the UK and Ireland without needing a separate visa per each jurisdiction and visit. To find out more about this visa route and if you are eligible, do not hesitate to contact our specialist immigration lawyers who are well-versed in both UK and Irish immigration law. 

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What is the British-Irish Visa Scheme?

The British-Irish Visa Scheme (BIVS) is a “memorandum of understanding” and reciprocal agreement between the UK and Ireland to promote tourism in both countries. The scheme allows applicants of a certain nationality to freely travel through the Common Travel Area (CTA) excluding the Isle of Man and Channel Islands under one, singular visa.  

The Common Travel Area is the commonly used term that indicates an understanding between the two countries, the UK and Ireland, which grants specific rights for citizens of each jurisdiction. In addition, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom collaborated on the BIVS route for Indian and Chinese nationals in 2014, granting applicants of these nationalities to enjoy certain visa advantages and travel freely though the UK and Ireland without needing separate visas for each. Even after the UK leaves the European Union (Brexit), the CTA and thus British-Irish Visa Scheme remains intact.  

The route builds upon Ireland’s Short Stay Visa Waiver Programme that was implemented in 2011, although while the waiver programme allows applicants to travel in one direction only, the British-Irish route allows travel throughout the UK and Ireland. 

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What Does the British-Irish Visa Allow?

Generally speaking, the BIVS allows Chinese and Indian nationals to travel for a short time across the UK and Ireland under a single visa. 

The scheme is mutually recognised by both the UK and Ireland, meaning Ireland will accept a UK Visa and vice versa. For example, an Indian or Chinese national who is visiting Dublin or Cork in the Republic of Ireland for tourism or other short visiting purposes will also be able to make a short trip to London in the UK or Belfast in Northern Ireland without needing to apply for a separate visa.  

However, it is only applicable to those travelling on certain short stay and visitor visas – and applicants must ensure they meet the requirements and eligibility criteria in order to be successful. It is also important to note that there are strict conditions attached to the British-Irish Visa Scheme, for instance applicants must ensure they arrive in the UK first if they have a UK Visit Visa, or Ireland first if they have an Irish Short Stay Visa. 

Can Children Travel Under the British-Irish Visa Scheme?

Minors under the age of 18 travelling alone are not permitted to enter the BIVS scheme. 

However, persons under the age of 18 may use the scheme if they are travelling in the company of an adult specified on the visa. 

Ring IAS today if you are unsure about what the BIVS allows you to do. We can help you with your application, check over your documents or give you general advice on your next steps.

The Rules and Requirements

To be accepted under the BIVS route, you must be at least 18 years of age and meet the Visitor Visa requirements.  

In addition, you must first travel to the country that is responsible for your visa. For example, if you have an Irish Short Stay Visa but wish to visit the UK, you must make sure you first land in Ireland before moving on to travel to Northern Ireland and the UK. Fortunately, the BIVS visa means you will not need a Re-Entry Visa if you wish to return back to Ireland or the UK again. 

You must also be wary that there are things you cannot do while under your specified visa. You can only undertake activities that are allowed under the purpose of which the visa was granted. For example, if you enter Ireland or the UK for tourism purposes, you cannot engage in any business or form of employment.  

It is crucial you identify which country you intend on arriving in first as this will decide whether you need a UK Visa or an Irish Visa. However, each visa gives a certain amount of time in which you can exercise your travelling rights across the CTA. 

Take note of the following permission: 

  • The maximum stay in the UK allowed to someone with a UK Visa is 180 days 
  • The maximum stay in Ireland allowed to someone with an Irish Visa is 90 days 
  • The maximum stay in Ireland allowed to someone with a UK Visa is 90 days or the remaining period of validity on your entry permission 
  • The maximum stay in the UK allowed to someone with an Irish Visa is the remaining period of validity on the applicant’s permission to remain in Ireland that is granted upon arrival in the State and as evidenced by the stamp in their passport 

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Which Documents are Needed?

To successfully apply for the BVIS scheme, you must meet the requirements of your stipulated visitor visa which varies depending on which type of visitor you are. 

However, a note to be wary of is that both the UK and Ireland assess all Visit Visa applications with particular scrutiny. The decision-maker wants to ensure that you intend on leaving the country at the end of your trip and that you won’t become an illegal overstayer. Many people are refused a Visit Visa for failing to outline a genuine intention to visit and then return back to their home country. 

For this reason, you must provide a portfolio of evidence and proof which may entail your travel tickets and any compelling reasons you have to return to your country of origin, such as a full-time job, a mortage or children to look after. It is crucial that your application is prepared with thorough evidence to give your application the best chance of success. 

Our dedicated team of specialist immigration lawyers are able to assist you in gathering your supporting evidence. Contact us today on (+353) 061 518 025  to get started on your application. 

Is a Transit Visa Necessary?

If you have an Irish Visa, then you must first land in Ireland before travelling on to the UK. However, you are allowed to travel through the UK providing that your first destination is Ireland. In other words, you will not need a Transit Visa. 

 

How to Apply for a British-Irish Visa

Once you have identified which country you are seeking to make your application from, you can begin the application process itself.  

Both Ireland and the UK have joint application centres across China and India from which you can submit your application. However, the appropriate authorities in either the UK or Ireland will process your visa application depending on which country you are seeking your initial visa to. 

How to Re-Enter the Country After Visiting

If you enter Ireland, visit the UK and then wish to re-enter into Ireland again, for example, you shouldn’t need a Re-Entry Visa. However, you should be wary of the following conditions:

  1. If you are travelling on a Single-Entry Irish Visa, once you have left the Common Travel Area, the visa is no longer valid and cannot be used to re-enter Ireland or the UK
  2.  If you are travelling on a Multi-Entry Irish Visa, re-entry to the Common Travel Area is allowed during the period of validity of the visa but the first country of arrival must be Ireland again
  3.  If travelling on a UK Visa, re-entry is only permitted during the period of validity on the UK Visa

That said, if you are only travelling across the Common Travel Area (UK and Ireland), you will not need a re-entry visa if you receive a BIVS visa. This means you can enter the UK, Ireland and back to the UK again, or vice versa. 

Which Irish Short Stay Visas are Covered by the Scheme?

Not all Irish Visas are endorsed by the BIVS, but many under the ‘visitor’ category are coded with BIVS advantages.  

The Irish Visas that can be used to travel through the CTA for Indian and Chinese nationals are as followed: 

All other visa categories such as a Work Visa or Study Visa is not permitted under the British-Irish Visa Scheme.

If you are applying for an Irish Visa, you must ensure that you meet the Irish Visitor Visa requirements and send your application to the appropriate immigration authorities in Ireland. At IAS, our Irish immigration lawyers can help you with every stage of this application process – and can even liaise with the Irish government over your application for you. Get in touch to hear more about our custom-made and tailored packages by ringing our client care team today on (+353) 061 518 025.

Which UK Visas are Covered by the Scheme?

While Irish Visit Visas are processed by a decision-maker in Ireland in accordance with Irish immigration law, UK visas are processed by the UK Government in accordance with UK immigration law. It is important to make this distinction as the immigration rules and visa requirements in the UK and Ireland differ. 

Generally speaking, all standard visitor categories in the UK where the maximum visit period is six months permits applicants to undertake the British-Irish Visa Scheme.  

This includes: 

  • Standard Visitor Visa 
  • Business Visitor Visa 
  • Child Visitor Visa 
  • Prospective Entrepreneur Visitor Visa 
  • Private Medical Treatment Visitor Visa 
  • Student Visitor Visa 
  • Permitted Paid Engagement Visa 

However, the BIVS is not covered under a Visitor in Transit or a Visitor seeking to enter for the purpose of marriage/civil partnership. 

It is further important to note that the UK Visitor Visa you apply for cannot be for a period longer than six months. 

If you wish to find out how you can visit Ireland for personal or tourism reasons, our team is happy to assist. Learn more

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Frequently Asked Questions

The Short Stay Visa Waiver Programme allows nationals of a number of Eastern European, Middle East and Asian countries who have a short-term UK visa to come to Ireland without the need for a separate Irish Visa. 

This scheme is separate as the BIVS is applicable to Chinese and Indian applicants. 

There are certain circumstances under which your BIVS visa may be refused. Each jurisdiction reserves the right to refuse your visa application at the appropriate bodies’ discretion. 

Generally speaking, there is no appeal mechanism to challenge a refused BIVS visa. For this reason, it is of utmost importance that you fulfil your visa application to the highest standard. 

If, for example, you have an Irish Visa but you arrive in the UK first, you may face complications with your visa permission. 

Whether you arrive in the wrong jurisdiction through no fault of your own, such as an aircraft diversion, or you have made a genuine error, the immigration authorities at the port you arrive in will decide on a case by case basis whether to grant you entry. 

In the event that your entry is not granted, arrangements will be made. If you made a genuine error, arrangements may be made to transport you to the correct jurisdiction that your visa permits. 

You can travel back home from either the UK or Ireland. 

However, the date of permission to be in Ireland or the UK must still be valid on transit through either jurisdiction and cover the time to get back home again. 

The British-Irish Visa scheme is only available for Chinese and Indian nationals. 

If you are a national of a country that means you do not need a visa to visit or enter Ireland, you still may need one to enter the UK, even if you are visiting.  

The same rule applies to people who do not need a visa to the UK, but who may need one to enter Ireland.  

Knowing whether you need to apply for a UK visa or an Irish visa depends largely upon which country you intend on arriving in first. Transit through either of the countries does not count as the first point of entry in this case.  

In other words, if you are arriving anywhere in the UK, you should apply for a UK Visa; if your first arrival is in Ireland, then an Irish visa is required. 

If you don’t wish to travel to both the UK and Ireland, you should just seek the appropriate visa in the normal way. This scheme does not apply to you. 

However, it is important to note that should you secure a UK Visa that is not endorsed by the BIVS scheme then you will not be allowed to travel to the Republic of Ireland. You may even need to return to your country of origin and make a fresh application if you want to enter Ireland – or seek a separate Irish Visitor Visa. 

Our expert immigration lawyers are OISC trained and certified, meaning they are well-versed in all areas of domestic UK immigration law, Irish immigration law and even international immigration law such as the US. 

The IAS team can help you from start to finish with your BIVS application; advising you on which documents you made need as proof to support your claim to fulfilling the application for you on your behalf.  

By entrusting the Immigration Advice Service with your case, you can rest assured that your application is in the best hands. Contact us today on (+353) 061 518 025.