The British-Irish Visa Scheme (BIVS Visa) is an agreement between Ireland and the United Kingdom which allows foreign nationals to enter either country without having to get a visa if they already hold a valid visa for the other country.
What this means is: If you are in Ireland with a valid Irish visa and want to travel from there to the United Kingdom, you will not have to apply for a separate UK visa – you can enter the UK with your Ireland visa. Reciprocally, UK visa holders can enter Ireland without having to get an Irish visa.
The British-Irish Visa Scheme is a follow up of the Irish Visa Waiver Programme (see below), which allows certain UK visa holders to enter Ireland without a separate Irish visa.
However, the British-Irish Visa Scheme and the Irish Visa Waiver Programme are not available to all visa-required foreign nationals.
Who is eligible for the British-Irish Visa Scheme (BIVS Visa)?
Only nationals of India and China, who are living in India and China respectively, are eligible for the BIVS Visa.
- You can only utilize the British-Irish Visa Scheme if you hold a short stay visa for either country.
- Minors (under 18) can travel via the Scheme only if they are accompanied by an adult who is eligible.
- Your visa must have the coding “BIVS” for you to be allowed to use the Scheme.
UK visas eligible for the British-Irish Visa Scheme (BIVS Visa)
You are eligible for the British-Irish Visa Scheme if you have one of the following UK visas:
- Any UK short-stay visitor visa which is valid for a maximum of 6 months.
- Permitted Paid Engagement visa
If you have a UK visa which allows you to stay in the country for longer than six months, you will not be allowed to use the British-Irish Visa Scheme.
This means that if you are an Indian or Chinese national who has a long-stay visa for the UK, such as Student Visa or Work Visa, you still need a separate visa to travel to Ireland.
Ireland visas eligible for the British-Irish Visa Scheme (BIVS Visa)
You are eligible for the British-Irish Visa Scheme if you have one of the following Ireland visas:
- Any Irish short stay “C” visa (either single- or multiple-entry), with the purpose of:
- Visit (family/friends)
- Conference or event
How to apply for the BIVS Visa?
There is no specific BIVS visa application. You have to apply for the short-stay visa of the country in which you are travelling to first. Then, you can use your BIVS-endorsed visa to travel to the other country.
So, if you will travel to Ireland first and then the UK, you will need to apply for an Irish visa, and vice-versa.
As such, depending on the country you are travelling to first, follow the visa application process as described here:
Requirements for the BIVS Visa
Seeing as you have to apply for either an Ireland visa or a UK visa, the requirements for the visa differ depending on the country.
How long is the BIVS visa valid?
The validity of your BIVS-endorsed visa depends on the country who issued the visa and the country you are in.
For example, an Ireland short stay visa is only valid for a maximum of 90 days, whereas a UK short stay visa is valid for a maximum of 180 days.
Therefore, even if you have a UK visa valid for six months, once you enter Ireland, you cannot stay longer than 90 days.
Similarly, if you have an Ireland visa issued for 90 days and you spend half of those in Ireland before traveling to the UK, you can only stay in the UK for the number of days you have remaining on your Irish visa, no longer.
This means that regardless of how many valid days you have on your visa (either Irish or British), you will have to split them as you wish.
Additionally, you can travel between the countries without having to apply for a re-entry visa, provided that the visa you have is multiple-entry. If you have a single-entry visa, you cannot re-enter the country after you leave.
Irish Visa Waiver Programme
Through the Irish Visa Waiver Programme, nationals of certain countries (listed below) who are UK visa holders can enter Ireland without having to apply for a separate Irish visa.
The conditions of the Irish Visa Waiver Programme are:
- You must be a national and resident of one of the countries listed on the table below.
- You must have a valid UK short stay visa and Leave to Remain for up to 180 days.
- Your visit to Ireland must not be longer than the remaining days on your UK visa.
- Additionally, a UK visa is valid for 180 days, whereas an Irish visa is valid for 90 days. You can only stay in Ireland for a maximum of 90 days, regardless of the validity of your UK visa. In any case, it is an Immigration Officer in the Ireland port of entry who decides how long you can stay.
- You can return home from either country, Ireland or the UK.
Keep in mind:
The Irish Visa Waiver Programme is not reciprocal, like the BIVS. You cannot travel to the UK with a valid Irish visa, even if you are from one of the eligible countries.
Who is eligible for the Irish Visa Waiver Programme?
You are only eligible to use the Irish Visa Waiver Programme if you are from one of the following countries:
|Bahrain||Belarus||Bosnia and Herzegovina||India|
|The People’s Republic of China||Qatar||Russian Federation||Saudi Arabia|
|United Arab Emirates||Uzbekistan|
You are not eligible for the Irish Visa Waiver Programme, even if you are from one of those countries, if:
- You are the holder of a UK long stay visa, such as a family reunification, student, or work visa.
- You have a UK Transit visa.
- You want to marry or enter a civil partnership.
How to apply for the Irish Visa Waiver Programme?
You cannot specifically apply for the Irish Visa Waiver Programme. You become eligible for the program if you are in one of the categories mentioned above and you obtain a short-stay UK visa.
Therefore, to be able to utilize the Irish Visa Waiver Programme, you will need to apply for a UK short stay visa, as described here.
Requirements of the Irish Visa Waiver Programme
As mentioned, there is no specific procedure through which you can apply for the Irish Visa Waiver Programme. To be able to use the program, you will have to apply for a UK short stay visa, therefore, you have to follow the UK visa requirements set by the British Government.
Using a UK visa to enter Ireland from a third country
You can only use the UK visa to enter Ireland from a third country (such as your home country) if:
- You have already entered the UK using the short stay visa at least once, before departing.
- Your UK leave to remain and short stay visa are still valid.