On 6 October 2014, The Home Secretary Theresa May signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Republic of Ireland. The first project to benefit from this new agreement will be a British/Irish visa scheme, which will allow Chinese and Indian visitors to travel to the UK and Ireland on a single visit visa. The Home Office announced that the scheme will start in China by the end of October and in India soon afterwards. The reasoning behind this is that the Home Office considers China and India as key markets for the UK and Irish tourism, and it is hoped that it will increase a number of visitors to the UK and Ireland through making the process simpler.
The UK did not sign up to the Schengen Agreement (for a single visa to travel through the EU) for the express reason that they did not want to relinquish control of UK borders to other EU states. This UK/Ireland Memorandum of Understanding effectively will allow the Irish immigration authorities to determine who can enter the UK.
In order for this to work effectively the Home Office needs to ensure clear procedures are in place for monitoring those applying for visas and entering/leaving the UK through this scheme. It remains to be seen what these new rules will involve - for example will the 6-month time limit attached to a visitors stay apply across both countries, or each?
The scheme is being rushed through in a relatively short space of time and one would hope that appropriate checks and balances will be put in place.
9 October 2014