The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, T.D., the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, T.D., the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, T.D. and the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar, T.D., have launched the first ever Irish Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme.
This Programme is an integral part of the Government’s Jobs Initiative and is intended to promote tourism, particularly from emerging markets. It is due to commence on Friday 1 July 2011 and will run up to the end of October 2012, as a pilot, taking in the period of the London Olympics.
Under the Programme, tourists or business people who have lawfully entered the UK, including Northern Ireland, on a valid UK visa will be able to travel on to Ireland without the requirement to obtain an Irish visa. They will be allowed to stay in Ireland for up to 3 months or until their UK visa runs out, whichever is the shorter.
Nationals of sixteen countries in all are included in the programme. The countries involved are India, Kazakhstan, Peoples Republic of China, Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Belarus, Montenegro, Russian Federation, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine.
It was also announced, as part of the initiative, that nationals of these countries, who are long-term legal residents in the UK, will have the cost of an Irish visa waived should they wish to visit Ireland. It is estimated that there are up to 1 million people in this category in the UK.
The Taoiseach described the Programme as an “innovative package which is clearly focussed on encouraging more tourists from new and untraditional markets to visit Ireland”. He applauded the initiative of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, for bringing the proposal to cabinet. The Taoiseach added that the proposal is noteworthy for coming from a Department “which would not ordinarily be seen as a generator of economic activity”. “However, all is changed” he added, “and this Government is determined to do things differently, to operate all the levers and to work closely with industry to make that change happen for the betterment of all our citizens”.
The Tánaiste described the initiative “as an excellent example of a joined-up Government response to what is a genuine constraint to the growth of Irish tourism in new and emerging markets such as China, India and the Gulf.” He said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Irish embassies abroad will be cooperating closely with the Department of Justice and Equality to help ensure that our visa regime is aligned with the priorities set out in the Government’s integrated strategy for the promotion of overseas trade, tourism and investment. The Tánaiste said that he looked forward to “further developments in relation to the visa regime for entrepreneurs and investors who wished to do business in Ireland in the near future.”
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence stated “this initiative has been warmly welcomed by the tourism industry as a measure which represents real practical assistance at a time when it was never more needed. Put at its simplest, it is joined-up Government in action. The Programme is a real and tangible outcome of a process of engagement, facilitated and led by my Department”.
Minister Varadkar also welcomed the initiative “The visa waiver has a major role to play in boosting our tourism industry, stimulating job creation and bringing economic recovery. It will allow us to attract new visitors from fast-growing countries like India, China and the Gulf states. These countries are only just becoming aware of Ireland as a tourism destination. The waiver will allow holidaymakers from these nations to travel seamlessly to Ireland from the UK.
“The visa waiver is just one of a number of tourism measures in the Jobs Initiative designed to boost tourism jobs. Other measures include the VAT cut on tourism products which starts this week, a three-pronged approach to boost air passengers, and halving employers’ PRSI. I hope this will be the first in a series of measures to ease visa requirements for tourists, business people and students wishing to come to Ireland.”
It will also be noted that holders of Identity Cards and Passports issued by the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau are already on the list of those who do not require a visa to travel to Ireland.