The UK and the Republic of Ireland have signed a memo of understanding to share data and exchange information which will be used to inform and determine immigration decisions.

This will mean that visa-bearing visitors from India and China will be able to travel more easily between the two countries, while maintaining the security of the borders.

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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 a watch list information and passenger data.

The first project to benefit from this new agreement is the British-Irish Visa Scheme, 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. It is hoped that more than 10,000 visitors will use the scheme.

‘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,’ said British Home Secretary Theresa May.

Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Justice and Equality in Ireland, said the scheme lays the foundations to extend the benefits of borderless travel between the two countries for genuine visitors.

The British Irish Visa Scheme is expected to 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.

To be eligible for the British-Irish visa scheme, applicants for Irish short-stay visas must apply at a UK/Irish visa application centre in India or China. Applications cannot be made at centres outside these two countries during the first phase of the scheme.

Applications for Irish visas will continue to be determined by the Irish authorities and applications for UK visas will continue to be determined by the UK authorities.

The visa holder must first travel to the country that issued the visa. For example, if you have an Irish short stay visa and want to also visit the UK, you must travel to Ireland first.

If you have a British visitor visa and want to also visit Ireland, you must travel to the UK first.

Holders of an Irish short stay visa will be able to transit in the UK as part of an onward journey to Ireland.