Tourism minister pushing for joint Irish-UK visa
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16 May 2012
Ireland's Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar is urging Ireland and the UK to create a joint UK-Ireland visa. He said tourists and business visitors should not need to apply for two separate visas for the UK and Ireland."This means that there are real opportunities to attract more high-value, high-spending visitors from rapidly growing economies like Brazil, India, China and Russia to both Britain and Ireland," Varadkar told the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly.Varadkar described the proposed agreement between Ireland and the UK as a "mini-Schengen", referring to the agreement that allows visa nationals to obtain one visa that allows travel between 26 countries including France, Germany, Greece, and the Netherlands.Under current immigration rules, overseas visitors traveling to the UK on a UK visitor visa can also travel to Ireland without needing to apply for a separate Irish visa. However, this is only available until October 2016. "While the visa waiver is a step forward, it should be just that - one step of many to come," Varadkar said. "It makes no sense to me that a tourist flying into Dublin from Dubai needs a separate visa to travel to the Titanic Experience in Belfast and to see the Giant's Causeway. And it makes even less sense to the tourist."Citizens of the UK and Ireland are covered by the Common Travel Area which allows passport-free movement between all the islands including the Isle of Man and Channel Islands.Varadkar's visa proposal is the latest move by the Irish Government to attempt to boost visitor numbers. "The development of tourism is fundamental to our economic recovery. We still have a situation where some international guests require two separate visas to visit Donegal and Derry. This should be addressed as a priority issue that will encourage tourism and economic development in both countries," said British-Irish Parliamentary Co-chairman Joe McHugh.
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