What is the British-Irish
visa scheme?

The British-Irish visa scheme (BIVS) is an often overlooked immigration scheme that was first introduced back in 2014. In its most simple form, the scheme is designed to allow Chinese and Indian nationals to visit the UK and Ireland using a single visa when travelling on certain short-stay visas.

The BIVS allows for interchangeable travel between Ireland and the UK and aims to promote legitimate, flexible travel for tourists and business visitors.

For example, under the British-Irish visa scheme, an Indian or Chinese visitor in Dublin will be able to make a short trip to London or Belfast without needing to apply for a separate visa. Likewise, an Indian or Chinese national visiting London could also travel to Cork or Dublin.

Who is eligible for the British-Irish visa scheme?

At present, the scheme only applies to Indian and Chinese nationals. You can apply if you are:

  • A Chinese national living in the People’s Republic of China
  • A Chinese national living in Hong Kong or Macau
  • An Indian national living in India.

Although it is possible to apply as a Chinese national living in Hong Kong or Macau, the scheme does not apply to Hong Kong or Macau passport holders.

All nationals of China and India who hold an eligible Irish or UK visa (except a ‘visitor in transit’ visa or a ‘visitor for marriage or civil partnership’ visa) will be covered by the scheme.

Eligible Irish short-stay visas include:

  • Visit ( family/ friend)
  • Visit ( tourist)
  • Conference/event
  • Business

Eligible UK visas include:

  • All standard visitor categories where the maximum period for a single visit is six months
  • Permitted Paid Engagement visas

Visas that are valid for use under this scheme will have ‘BVIS’ endorsed on them.

Conditions and how to apply

Those using the scheme must travel to the country that issued the visit visa first. For example, if you have a UK visit visa and you also want to visit Ireland, you must touchdown in the UK before travelling to Ireland.

There are dedicated visa application centres in China (including Hong Kong) and India, which applicants can attend to process the first phase of the application.

All applications must be submitted to a visa application centre, where you will need to present supporting documentation and also have your biometric data taken. Note applications cannot be made at centres outside these two countries during the first phase of the scheme.

Benefits of the scheme

Previously, individuals wanting to travel to the UK and also Ireland had to submit two separate visa applications for each respective country.

This Irish-British Visa Scheme provides individuals with the opportunity to apply once and pay the visa fee for the single application, allowing for flexible and more spontaneous travel.

Another benefit is that, once granted, you can visit either country as many times as you wish, within the permitted duration of your stay.

Support with your UK or Irish visa application

For more information on the British-Irish Visa Scheme, please contact our in-house immigration experts who will be able to assist with any questions you may have.

With the support of our global network, we are able to navigate between Irish and UK Immigration rules, offering our help every step of the way, from initial queries to visa processing and meeting immigration rules thereafter. Our global team here at SSW are more than happy to provide insight.

To speak to a member of the team, please call us on 020 8461 6660, or email info@smithstonewalters.com.

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