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Common Travel Area between the UK and Ireland

The Common Travel Area (CTA) is an agreement between the Crown Dependencies, Ireland and the UK that grants freedom of movement, residence rights and other entitlements to British and Irish citizens.

For more information about Irish immigration, or to receive help with your immigration case, get in touch with one of our immigration law professionals in Ireland on +353 (0) 61 518 025 or in the UK on 0333 305 9375 today. Or, contact us online.

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    What is the Common Travel Area?

    The Common Travel Area (CTA) agreement grants Irish and UK citizens the right to free movement and residence in either country, as well as giving access to certain rights and privileges. These include the right to work, study and vote in elections, as well as to access social welfare benefits and health services in either country.

    The Common Travel Area predates both Ireland and the UK’s membership of the European Union and is not dependent on it. This means that citizens of each country can continue to enjoy the rights given by the CTA even after the UK’s departure from the EU.

    The UK authorities and Irish government signed a Memorandum of Understanding in May 2019 reaffirming their commitment to maintaining the CTA and its associated rights and privileges.

    What Travel Rights Are Included in the CTA?

    Under the CTA agreement, Irish and British citizens are able to move freely between Ireland and the UK without having to obtain visas, permits, or special permissions.

    Because of this, Irish nationals are not subject to the UK’s new points-based immigration system if they wish to live and work in the UK. Irish citizens are also not required to apply under the Settled Status scheme, although they are still eligible to do so if they wish.

    You cannot travel freely within the CTA if you are subject to any of the following:

    • A deportation order
    • An exclusion decision
    • An international travel ban

    If any of these apply to you, you will need to seek permission from the UK government if you wish to travel to the UK.

    What Work and Education Rights Are Included in the CTA?

    If you’re a British or Irish citizen, you are free to work in either state without the need for special permissions or permits. This also includes any self-employed work.

    The UK and Irish governments have also committed to ensuring that professional qualifications from either country are sufficiently recognised in the other.

    British or Irish citizens also have equal rights to access all levels of education in either country. The Irish and UK governments have also taken steps to ensure that citizens can access student loans and support for further and higher education in either country.

    What Social Security Benefits Are Included in the CTA?

    If you’re a British or Irish citizen, you can access social security benefits and entitlements, (including pensions) from whichever state you are subject to the social security legislation of.

    However, you can only be subject to one state’s social security legislation at a time. You can also only pay into one state’s social security scheme at a time, and are entitled to the same social security rights and benefits (and subject to the same obligations) as citizens of that state.

    These agreements will always apply, whether you are living and working in either state, or living and working across the border in both states.

    What Health Care, Social Housing Support, and Voting Rights Are Included in the CTA?

    Irish and British citizens have the right to access health care in either state.

    Irish and British citizens residing in either state also have the right to access social housing, including supported housing and homeless assistance, on the same basis as citizens of that state.

    Irish and British citizens in either state are also entitled to register to vote in local and national parliamentary elections on the same basis as citizens of that state, as long as they are of voting age.

    What Do Irish Citizens Need to Enter the UK?

    If you’re an Irish citizen travelling from Ireland to the UK, you may sometimes have to pass through immigration control.

    If so, then you may have to show a Border Force officer a document that confirms your identity and nationality. This could include:

    • A valid passport or passport card (if you’re Irish)
    • A copy of your passport or passport card with your identity and nationality clearly visible
    • An expired passport or passport card (you must be able to show that it was issued to you originally)
    • Evidence of having obtained British or Irish citizenship

    Border Force officers may also accept other valid forms of identification other than those listed here on a case by case basis.

    You will never go through immigration control when you cross the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, so you won’t need to carry any documents with you if you’re crossing the border there.

    What Do UK Citizens Need to Enter Ireland?

    British citizens don’t need a passport if they’re travelling from the UK to Ireland.

    However, if you’re travelling to Ireland by air or ferry, Irish immigration officers will check your identification documents and may ask for proof of nationality, especially if you were born outside the UK. Because of this, it’s recommended that you take your valid British passport with you on your trip to Ireland.

    The requirements for entering Ireland may vary based on the method of travel you take, and specific carriers. For example, some airlines and sea carries will only accept a valid passport as a valid ID document.

    You should always check what your carrier’s requirements are before you set off.

    You will never go through immigration control when you cross the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, so you won’t need to carry any documents with you if you’re crossing the border there.

    What Do I Need to Travel to the UK From Ireland if I’m not an Irish or British Citizen?

    If you’re not an Irish or British Citizen and you wish to travel to the UK from Ireland, you may be subjected to slightly different sets of rules that restrict freedom of movement within the CTA.

    Note that you if you’re travelling to the UK from outside of Ireland, you may be subject to different entry requirements and regulations. You can find out more about this on our page on Immigrating to the UK.

    Below is an outline of what you need to do if you’re travelling to the UK from Ireland as a non-Irish or UK citizen.

    If You’re From an EEA Country or Switzerland

    You may be asked by a Border Force officer to show your passport or identity card when entering the UK from Ireland. Your passport should be valid for the whole of your stay.

    You cannot use an EEA or Swiss national identity card to enter the UK. Instead, you can only use a valid passport to travel, unless you:

    • Have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, or Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man’s settlement schemes
    • Have an EU Settlement Scheme family permit, or the equivalent from Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man
    • Have a Frontier Worker permit
    • Are an S2 Healthcare Visitor
    • Are a Swiss national and have a Service Provider from Switzerland visa

    You will not need any documents to cross the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

    If you’re waiting for a decision on your application for settled or pre-settled status, you may use your EEA or Swiss national identity card to enter the UK. However, all of the following must be true:

    • You’ve applied for settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, or Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man’s settlement schemes
    • You’ve been issued with confirmation your application is valid
    • You’re not applying as a joining family member

    If You’re Not From an EEA Country or Switzerland

    You may be asked by a Border Force officer to show your passport, which must be valid for the whole of your stay.

    You will not need any documents to cross the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

    Permission to Enter Requirements

    You won’t need additional permissions to travel to the UK from Ireland if you already have permission to enter or stay in the UK.

    You only need to get permission to enter the UK when arriving from Ireland if:

    • You arrived in Ireland from outside of the CTA and did not obtain immigration permission to enter Ireland
    • You’re a visa national who doesn’t have a valid UK visa, or a visa granted under the British-Irish Visa Scheme (BIVS)
    • You entered Ireland unlawfully from outside the CTA
    • You entered the UK or the Crown Dependencies unlawfully and went directly from there to Ireland
    • Your permission to enter or stay expired before you left the UK and since then you haven’t been given permission to enter or stay in the UK or any of the Crown Dependencies
    • You are the subject of an international travel ban
    • You were refused admission or subject to a removal decision under specific regulations

    In these situations, you must either apply for a visa before you travel, or permission to enter from a Border Force officer at the UK border.

    Family Members

    If you have family members who are not Irish or British citizens, they will not be able to take advantage of the CTA arrangements. You must instead bring your family members on a UK Family Visa, or alternatively they can apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, if they’re eligible.

    Your family members may also be able to come to the UK if you’re:

    • Visiting the UK as an S2 healthcare visitor
    • A frontier worker

    Your family members will be subject to the same rules and restrictions as outlined above if they wish to travel within the CTA.

    What Do I Need to Travel to Ireland From the UK if I'm not an Irish or British Citizen?

    If you’re not an Irish or British citizen and you wish to travel to Ireland, you will have to comply with Irish entry requirements.

    If You’re From an EU or EEA Country

    If you’re a citizen of an EU or EEA country, you won’t need a visa if you’re visiting Ireland from the UK.

    You also do not need a visa if you have an EEA member country-issued travel document, or an EEA country residence card.

    However, you will still have to present your passport and documents to immigration control when you arrive at the airport or port,

    If You’re Not From an EEA Country or Switzerland

    You will not need a visa to enter Ireland if you’re a citizen of any of the countries listed below:

    AndorraGuyanaSamoa
    Antigua & BarbudaHondurasSan Marino
    ArgentinaHong KongSeychelles
    AustralisIsraelSingapore
    BahamasJapanSolomon Islands
    BarbadosKiribatiSouth Africa
    BelizeLesothoSouth Korea
    BotswanaMacauSwaziland (Eswatini)
    BoliviaMalaysiaSwitzerland
    BrazilMaldivesTaiwan
    BruneiMexicoTonga
    CanadaMonacoTrinidad & Tobago
    ChileNauruTuvalu
    Costa RicaNew ZealandUkraine
    DominicaNicaraguaUnited Arab Emirates
    El SalvadorPanamaUnited States of America
    FijiParaguayUruguay
    GrenadaSaint Kitts & NevisVanuatu
    GuatemalaSaint LuciaVatican City

    If your country is not on this list, you will need a visa to visit Ireland.

    What Type of Visa do I Need to Visit Ireland?

    If you require a visa to visit Ireland, it’s likely that you will require either a short stay ‘C’ tourist visa, or a long stay ‘D’ visa.

    Short stay tourist visas are suitable for visits up to 90 days, while long stay visas allow you to stay in Ireland for more than 90 days.

    You may also have to apply for a separate re-entry visa if you wish to exit and re-enter Ireland within a short space of time, or if you’re transiting through Ireland on your way to another country.

    What is the Short Stay Visa Waiver Programme?

    The Short Stay Visa Waiver Programme allows citizens of certain countries to enter Ireland without a dedicated Irish visa if they already possess a short-term UK visa.

    Countries that are eligible for the Short Stay Visa Waiver Programme are listed below:

    BahrainKuwaitSaudi Arabia
    BelarusMontenegroSerbia
    Bosnia and HerzegovinaNorth MacedoniaThailand
    ChinaOmanTurkey
    ColombiaPeruUkraine
    IndiaPhilippinesUzbekistan
    KazakhstanQatarVietnam
    KosovoRussia

    In addition to this, Indian and Chinese citizens who have a short stay UK visa can travel to Ireland under the British-Irish Visa Scheme.

    For more information about Irish visas and visa requirements, don’t hesitate to contact our immigration experts on +353 (0) 61 518 025 if you’re in Ireland, or 0333 305 9375 if you’re in the UK. Or, contact us online.

    We're here to help if you have any questions about your rights under the Common Travel Area agreement. Contact Us

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      Can Irish Citizens Apply For the EU Settlement Scheme?

      As the freedom of movement and residence rights between the UK and Ireland are protected under the CTA agreements, you’re not required as an Irish citizen to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme.

      However, you are still able to do so if you wish to do so. You are eligible to apply if you were resident in the UK by 31 December 2020, or you are the close family member of an Irish or other EU, EEA or Swiss citizen who was.

      Note that the deadline for EU Settled Status applications was 30 June 2021. However, you and your family members may still apply if you have reasonable grounds for making a late application.

      If you’re an Irish citizen and you were resident in the UK by 31 December 2020, your close non-Irish and non-UK family members can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if they were also resident in the UK by 31 December 2020.

      If your close non-Irish and non-UK family members were not resident in the UK by 31 December 2020, they may apply to the EU Settlement Scheme from outside the UK. Alternatively, they may apply for an EU Settlement Scheme family permit and then apply to the EU Settlement Scheme from within the UK.

      You will need to demonstrate that you were continually resident in the UK prior to 31 December 2020 if you wish to support an application for non-Irish and non-UK family members or future children. You may do this by applying to the scheme yourself, or presenting documents such as payslips, utility bills, tenancy agreements, or other dated documents that have your UK address on it.

      How Can Total Law Help?

      The Common Travel Law agreement allows for a great number of freedoms for Irish and UK nationals.

      However, it’s important to know what your rights are and if you need to take any action due to your personal circumstances.

      If you have any questions or concerns about your rights within the CTA, Total Law Ireland are here to help. We are specialist immigration lawyers dedicated to providing thorough and professional immigration advice services, with years’ worth of experience in both Irish and UK law. We can communicate with British and Irish authorities on your behalf and ensure you can rightfully enjoy the full benefits of the CTA.

      Additionally, we can provide assistance if you’re travelling from outside the CTA into, or between UK and Ireland. We can advise you on what documents you will need to travel, as well as if you’ll need to apply for a visa, and how you can do so successfully.

      Get in touch with one of our trusted legal experts today on +353 (0) 61 518 025 if you’re in Ireland or 0333 305 9375 if you’re in the UK. Or, contact us through our form online.

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