The Home Secretary signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Republic of Ireland to strengthen the Common Travel Area.
The MOU will allow the UK and Ireland to share data and exchange information which will be used to inform and determine immigration decisions and allow visitors from India and China to travel more easily between the two countries, while maintaining the security of the borders.
The British-Irish Visa Scheme is just one part of a joint programme of work aimed at strengthening both countries’ borders. Other projects include closer working on visa policies and processes, facilitating greater pre-entry and entry checks and sharing watch-list information and passenger data.
The first project to benefit from this new agreement is the British-Irish Visa Scheme, announced over the summer, which will allow Chinese and Indian visitors to travel to the UK and Ireland on a single visit visa. The scheme will start in China by the end of October and in India soon afterwards. China and India are both key markets for UK and Irish tourism and it is hoped that more than 10,000 visitors will use the scheme.
The Home Secretary Theresa May said:
I am delighted to be able to sign this Memorandum of Understanding today. This agreement will make it easier and more attractive for travellers to visit both Ireland and the UK, while at the same strengthening Common Travel Area borders.
Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Justice and Equality, said:
It is by cooperating to the greatest extent possible in protecting our borders from abuse, by preventing persons from entering our countries who have no right to be here, that we lay the foundations on which to extend the benefits of borderless travel between our countries to genuine visitors.
The British-Irish Visa Scheme which we expect will provide a major boost to tourism for both countries is a very practical example of the transformation in British Irish relations.
The scheme will benefit the Northern Irish economy in particular, by allowing Chinese and Indian visitors to the Republic of Ireland the opportunity to visit Northern Ireland without having to obtain a separate UK visa.