Friday, March 16, 2012

16/3/2012: Visa Waver for UK visa holders

Per Minister Shatter announcement: Irish Short Stay Visa Waiver Scheme for visitors from almost 20 specified countries (mainly China, India, Gulf Region and Russia) lawfully entering the UK on a valid UK visa are allowed to travel on to the Republic of Ireland without the requirement to obtain an Irish visa has been extended for a further 4 years.

This pilot scheme commenced last July and was due to end this October. 

The scheme is a good example of forward thinking, and the Government should be commended on extending it, but it is only a minor step in terms of encouraging more visitors into Ireland and normalizing border controls to reflect the reality of modern business and tourism environment. More specifically, here is what really needs to be done:
  1. Obtaining the UK visa is harder in a number of countries mentioned (inc China and Russia) than obtaining Schengen visas. Ireland needs to significantly relax bureaucratic and compliance burden on visas issued in our embassies to make Irish visas (not UK wavers) more freely available to suitable tourists and visitors.
  2. Obtaining the UK visas is also politically restricted in some countries due to their bilateral relations with the UK - e.g. Russia. We must recognize this and act on (1) above.
  3. Irish Green Cards holders and long-term/permanent residents with families and households here, need functional Irish residency permits that are (a) recognized as identity documents abroad (current ones are not recognized as such) and (b) recognized as effective Schengen and UK visas. 
  4. Residents of Ireland holding foreign passports with EU Family Member or long-term resident stamps should have access to visa-free travel to the UK.
Points 3 and 4 above are critical as many of non-EU nationals who are long-term residents in Ireland are required by their work to travel abroad and the patent absurdity of GNIB status not allowing them to do so without acquiring multiple short-term visas to conduct business in EU is acting as a serious drag on their ability to earn living and generate tax revenues for the Irish state. The Irish Government can negotiate separate agreements on (3) and (4) above with the UK and with Schengen. 

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