British Irish Visa Scheme (BIVS)

Britain and Ireland have no hard border, and their geography is often confused by visitors who wish to travel to both. The British Irish Visa Scheme (abbreviated to BIVS) allows Chinese and Indian nationals the ability to travel into both countries on a single visa.

Unsure of if you’re eligible for the British Irish Scheme, or if your trip requires one? Call Total Law on +353 061 518 025 or message us online for advice on UK visas, the Irish visa schemes available and other UK and Ireland immigration advice.

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    What is the British Irish Visa Scheme?

    The British Irish Visa Scheme allows for Indian and Chinese nationals already present in one of the two countries on a UK visa or separate Irish visa the ability to travel between them without applying for further travel permissions.

    Valid visas are marked ‘BIVS’ and this presented when attempting to enter the UK or Ireland allows for easy passage.

    Currently the British Irish Visa Scheme only applies to those visiting on British or Irish short stay visas and are not suitable for any visa classes allowing trip durations for over six months.

    There is no ‘hard border’ between Northern Ireland (which is part of the United Kingdom) and the Republic of Ireland when travelling by road but all Irish and UK visa holders are required to have the correct travel permissions by law or they may face prosecution and forced removal from either country.

    This is likely to result in no legal recourse to re-enter Ireland or the UK thereafter.

    Travelling between Britain and Ireland on mainland Ireland is known as the ‘Common Travel Area’. Citizens of both countries are able to travel, live, work and study freely between the two.

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    Who is eligible for the British Irish Visa Scheme?

    The British Irish Visa Scheme only applies to Indian and Chinese nationals who are intending to travel to the UK or Ireland under an eligible visa. Eligible visas are short-stay permissions, including:

    • Irish short-stay ‘Visit Family/Friend’ visa
    • Irish short-stay ‘Visit as Tourist’ visa
    • Irish short-stay ‘Conference/event’ visa
    • Irish short-stay ‘Business’ visa
    • British ‘Permitted Paid Engagement’ visa
    • All British standard visitor visa categories where the maximum duration for a single visit is six-months or less

    If the traveller holds any other class of British or Irish visa, they must apply for a separate visa to travel between the two countries. Unaccompanied children are not eligible for the British Irish Visa Scheme under any circumstances.

    Visa holders must first travel to the country for which they hold the short stay visa before they enter the other.

    Each visa category holds its own eligibility requirements and application process. Throughout China and India, Britain and Ireland run joint visa application centres and so no matter the jurisdiction of the original visa being applied for, it may be processed at a dual-state service point.

    Eligibility for a short stay visa allowing a BIVS permission

    Chinese and Indian nationals must apply ahead of any travel for an Irish or British visitor visa in order to be granted entry to either country. While every visa application is different and judged on its merits, the eligibility criteria must be adhered to in order to receive the initial visa for travel.

    In order to be eligible for a short stay Irish visa, the following visa requirements must be met:

    • The applicant must hold a valid Chinese or Indian passport that does not expire for six months after the intended trip
    • (If visiting friends/family) The applicant must be able to provide an invitation letter from the person they are visiting with full details of the trip and provide a copy of their passport
    • The applicant must be able to provide details of their travel and accommodation (usually in the form of reservations or bookings made)
    • The applicant must be able to provide details of ‘sufficient finances’ to support themselves while in Ireland. There is not a set monetary amount required to enter Ireland on a short-stay single visa
    • The applicant must be able to demonstrate strong ties to their home country to prove they are likely to return (usually in the form of a letter from an employer, educational institution or family information)

    In order to be eligible for a short stay British visa, the following visa requirements must be met:

    • The applicant must hold a valid Chinese or Indian passport that does not expire for the duration of the trip
    • The applicant must be able to provide details of their return travel (usually in the form of reservations or bookings made)
    • The applicant must be able to provide details of ‘sufficient finances’ to support themselves while in the UK as well as to pay for return travel if it has not been confirmed or paid for already
    • The applicant must declare that they will not use successive visas to live in the UK for extended periods of time
    • (If carrying out ‘Permitted Paid Engagements’) The applicant must have a written invitation from a UK-based organisation or client and be able to demonstrate their expertise in the relevant professional field

    The British Irish Visa Scheme is only applicable to visas that have been applied for at a joint UK-Irish Visa Application Centre in China or India. Visas granted through application centres elsewhere will not be eligible for BIVS.

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      Valid Visas for BIVS: Costs

      While the British Irish Visa Scheme itself does not incur a cost, there are application fees to be paid for the initial visas for travel. As of March 2024, these fees are:

      • Irish Visitor Visa, €60
      • Irish Conference/Event Visa, €60
      • UK Visitor Visa, £115
      • UK Permitted Paid Engagement Visa, £115

      Processing times for UK visas under the scheme

      To apply for a British visa that is compatible with the British Irish scheme, applicants are usually advised that they can expect a decision on their visa application within three weeks.

      Processing times for Irish visas under the scheme

      The Irish visitor visas compatible with the British Irish Visa scheme are usually processed within eight weeks of applications being received. Conference/event and business visas are expedited and a decision usually received in between four to six months.

      Duration of Stay under BIVS

      The maximum stay in Ireland for an Irish visa holder is 90 days, and the maximum stay in the UK for a British visa holder is 180 days. The maximum stay in Ireland for a British visa holder is 90 days (or the remaining period of the holder’s current leave to enter the UK or current leave to remain in the UK, whichever is the shorter). The maximum stay in Britain for an Irish visa holder is the remaining period of the holder’s permission to remain in Ireland.

      How Can Total Law Help?

      Total Law are immigration specialists, working with individuals around the world to help them successfully apply for the visa and travel permissions they need. Our firm of solicitors navigate immigration law expertly and help take the stress out of the process for applicants.

      No matter how niche your circumstances, the Total Law team can help. Call our office today on +353 061 518 025 or complete our online contact form, for a free chat with no obligation, and start your journey to the UK and Ireland.

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                Frequently Asked Questions

                Being granted one of the eligible British or Irish short stay visas does not necessarily grant a BIVS stamp. Authorities in both countries reserve the right to decline access to the Common Travel Area.

                There are 16 visa application centres in China and 23 in India. Applicants may apply at any centre convenient to them.

                Photographs and fingerprints will be taken of all visa applicants as standard.

                If a visa holder with BIVS permission enters Ireland through Northern Ireland across the land border, they must report to an immigration officer at their local Garda Siochana or at the Burgh Quay registration office in Dublin, as soon as possible.

                You must apply for and obtain a valid visa for whichever country you intend to visit first.

                While immigration authorities do not share details of individuals cases routinely, it is unlikely that you will be granted BIVS permission if you have had a visa refusal from either country.

                Both citizens of Hong Kong and Macau are eligible for BIVS, providing they have applied for their visa at one of the joint visa application centres.