A new initiative that will allow visitors to travel freely between Ireland and the UK is expected to provide a big boost to the tourism industry in Ireland.
At the moment, many overseas tourists and business visitors, who want to stay here and in the UK, need separate visas.
But the new joint scheme, announced yesterday by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Home Secretary Theresa May, will facilitate travel on a single visa.
It will come into operation in the autumn, initially for visitors from China and India and will then be extended to visitors from other countries.
Ms Fitzgerald said the two countries were committed, now more than ever before, to work together on visa and border issues.
She said the British Irish Visa Scheme would also enable their immigration systems to work in tandem to promote and facilitate legitimate tourism and business travel to Ireland and the UK while also strengthening the external borders of the common travel area.
It was anticipated, she said, that the initiative would make a significant and lasting contribution to the economic prosperity security of both jurisdictions, including Northern Ireland.
The scheme will operate through a reciprocal visa arrangement, which will allow a tourist to apply for an Irish short-stay visa, travelling directly to Dublin and then on to Belfast, without having to obtain a separate UK visa.
It replaces Ireland’s short-stay waiver, which was introduced in July 2011 and proved to be a significant success.