IRELAND - Visa Waiver Programme Announced as Schengen Area Discusses Greater Border Controls
Ireland's Minister for Justice and Equality has announced a new pilot Visa Waiver Programme to take effect from July 2011 to October 2012. The Minister specified in his speech that the measures are being taken to encourage tourism, particularly from visitors to the UK who may want to make a trip to Ireland as part of their holiday. The a announcement comes as other members of the EU take steps in the opposite direction - border free travel across the Schengen zone looks seriously threatened as Italy and France push for the reinstatement of border controls and Denmark unilaterally reintroduces controls along its borders with Germany and Sweden.
Ireland's Visa Waiver Programme - How Does It Work?
The visa waiver programme for Ireland will apply to nationals of 16 countries. Nationals of these countries who hold a valid UK visitor visa, have entered the UK as a visitor and have been granted leave to remain for up to 180 days, may enter Ireland as visitors without the need for an additional visa, and will be granted leave to remain for up to 90 days or till the expiration of the UK visa, whichever is shorter.
The Ministry of Justice press release states that, "Tourist bodies report that this duplication of administrative paperwork acts as a significant disincentive to short stay visitors and for the development and marketing of Ireland as an " add-on" destination."
Ireland Visa Waiver Programme - Who Benefits?
The 16 countries to which the Visa Waiver Programme will apply are as follows:
- People's republic of China
- Russian Federation
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
Schengen Border Controls?
The step Ireland has taken has been clearly flagged as something the government hopes will increase revenue from tourism. The Minister stated in his speech: "This initiative is taking place in the context of the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK...The common travel area in good times and not so good times has delivered immense value to our nation. I see today's initiative as another significant step on that road."
Meanwhile, however, the future of the border free Schengen zone looks to be seriously at risk. France and Italy have both pushed for the reintroduction of border controls as concern over mass migration from Northern Africa has mounted. Italy recently granted 6 month residence permits to many of the 23,000 Tunisian migrants who recently landed on their shores - France is concerned that the migrants will be heading dir ectly for France, Tunisia's former colonisers.
On Tuesday this week, European Commission president Manuel Jose Barroso indicated that border controls should not be introduced, stating that, "It is a great progress of civilization that countries are able to put borders down and to let citizens flow freely,"' However, the issue is still open.
- Note that, from July 2011, certain nationals holding valid UK visas or residence status will benefit from Ireland's pilot visa waiver programme
- The Schengen Zone is still free from passport controls; Peregrine will keep you updated.