A common travel area is in existence between Ireland and the UK (including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man). The Common Travel Area has been in operation since the 1920s but is not specifically provided for in legislation. The first legal recognition of the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the United Kingdom (UK) is contained in the Treaty of Amsterdam. The Irish Government and the UK government have agreed reciprocal visa arrangements; measures to increase the security of the external Common Travel Area border; and to share immigration data between the two countries’ immigration authorities.
The Common Travel Area means that there are no passport controls in operation for Irish and UK citizens travelling between the 2 countries. You do not need to have a passport in order to enter the other country. However, all air and sea carriers require some form of identification and some regard a passport as the only valid identification. Immigration authorities may also require you to have valid official photo-identification which shows your nationality. As you are being asked to prove that you are an Irish or UK citizen who is entitled to avail of the Common Travel Area arrangements, it is advisable to travel with your passport.
The Common Travel Area also involves some co-operation on matters relating to immigration issues. A third country national, for example, may be refused permission to enter Ireland if it is their intention to travel onwards to the UK and they would not qualify for admission to the UK under the Aliens (Amendment) Order 1975. Irish immigration officers have the power to carry out checks on people arriving in the State from the UK and to refuse them entry to the State on the same grounds as apply to people arriving from outside the Common Travel Area. These checks are carried out selectively.
In December 2011, the Irish and UK governments agreed measures to secure the external Common Travel Area border. This includes exchanging biographic and biometric visa data and co-operating on establishing information about failed asylum seekers. There is a joint UK-Ireland Common Travel Area Forum which implements these measures.
If you are a citizen of a country whose nationals need a visa to enter Ireland and you have a valid UK visa or residence permit, you may be required to have a valid visa before you arrive in Ireland. Since July 2011, 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 programme will end on 31 October 2016 when it is expected that the new British Irish Visa scheme will replace it.
Reciprocal visa arrangements: A new British Irish Visa Scheme was introduced in 2014. It applies to visitors from China since 20 October 2014 and to visitors from India since 9 February 2015. This scheme allows visitors from these countries to travel freely within the Common Travel Area (in this case, Ireland and the UK but not the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man), using either an Irish or UK visa.
Both schemes are provided for in the Immigration Act (Visas) Order 2014 (SI 473/2014).
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.