An English Summer: British or Irish Visa? Maybe both…


For most of our westbound endeavours, Shipra and myself are covered with a couple of visas on our passports for the long term. However, on a case by case basis, we do apply for visas when we need them. One of those cases was on this trip when we were over to the UK and Ireland last month.

Keeping a British Visa on my passport has no case, given it costs INR 60000+ (GBP 787) or more to have a long-term one (I’m talking 10 years), and I don’t visit London enough to justify the cost. Ireland is not a part of the Schengen Agreement, so I did not have the option of using my existing Schengen visa for entering Ireland as well.

The British Irish Visa Scheme

Luckily for us, the British Irish Visa Scheme was implemented for India circa 2015 December. It was already in place for China since 2014, and this meant we could apply for one visa and get access to both the countries. The British Irish Visa Scheme (BIVS) allows for you to arrive in the country which is granting you the Visa and then head to the other one. So, if one had the Irish Visa, one would have to arrive in Ireland first, and then head to Britain. On the other hand, if you are holding a British Visa, you need to arrive in Britain before you could head to Ireland. The only exception I could make out was if you were transiting London to go to Ireland, you could be admitted for a day in the UK.

Irish Visitor Entry

Irish Visitor Entry

Our initial plan, like I mentioned here, was to fly Qatar Airways into Dublin. That would have meant applying for the Irish Visa. My reading was that it was going to be significantly easier paperwork for the Irish visa compared to the British one. The timelines were significantly shorter. Additionally, it would cost us less money.  I mean, INR 4100 for the Irish visa versus INR 7565 for the British Visa was a clear choice. Or not.

Eventually, I picked to fly into London and also get the British Visa for two reasons. There was going to be a better chance to get a flight to London from Mumbai than to Dublin. And I also figured it would make more sense to get a British Visa for multiple entries, even if it was for the 6-month period.

Air India 787-8 at Mumbai Airport

On arriving at the VFS counter for the British Visa paperwork submission, I found out the British and Irish Visa submission centres were co-located in the same premises. I also figured the process was much more organised, and we got done much quicker this time around in terms of submitting our paperwork to VFS for sending over to the British High Commission for a visa.

Our Visa submission expressly mentioned that we wanted to travel to Ireland on the same visa, and we enclosed our tickets to exit the UK to go to Dublin as well. This was mentioned in the Other information, as there was no place in the 10 page long form we filled up where we told them about everything from the name of my great great great grandfather (aren’t we all related somehow via Adam & Eve?) and the size of the cavity in my last molar which the dentist warned me about (it is zero by the way!)

Subsequently, we went go into the black hole of not finding out anything about where did our passport stand in the process for the next 21 days or so, and one fine day the both of us got emails from VFS that the passports were back at their office and we could pick them up at any time we wanted. And guess what, unlike some of the previous times, I was not bombarded with marketing calls by the people who sit inside the VFS Application submission centre and

The Visa that came back expressly mentioned BIVS which indicates that it was good for both Britain and Ireland. The British Immigration went about their usual process of admitting us in the country with a short interview at the passport control before letting us in. To exit the UK you don’t need to go through passport control anyways. In Ireland, however, we went over another interview with the Irish Garda and they let us in with a stamp on the passport.

Back in the UK for our transit, however, I was surprised to note that we arrived directly as if it were a domestic flight and no passport control happened again.

Bottomline

It was a nice surprise to see the system work beautifully. Unless you work for one of those companies who have an Irish office or you don’t have any business getting into the UK, I’d advise everyone to get a BIVS visa. After all, it does not cost any more than the usual and gives you access to one more land beyond the one you’re going to anyways.

Have you used the British Irish Visa Scheme? Are there any other convenient ways to access both the countries with the same visa. 

Comments

  1. That’s very informative and helpful. I was actually planning a UK and Ireland for Oct and was getting bogged down by the double Visa charges. Just wondering though would this visa work for a scenario where I entered UK (stayed for a week), went to Ireland (for 4-5 days) and came back to UK (stay for another week).
    Also does it make any sense to get a Mumbai – Dublin flight with a stop over at London to save on the flight tickets. (Assuming, the airlines allow extending the stopovers).

    • @Madhur, If you make it multiple entry then even Ireland comes close at 6100 INR. Best to go for UK visa and ask them in a cover letter to issue a multiple entry visa rather than a single entry one.

  2. Is it not a reason for worry that your passport got stamped while entry, which means you are recorded on a list, but no stamp on exit, and therefore you are not off the list!

    Thanks for the post though. Planning a trip later this year and have been exploring BIVS Also decided to apply for UK to take advantage of Jet’s frequent flights on BOM-LHR, making it quite easy to find J class tickets with miles

    • @Rajat, I’m aware that London or UK does not have Exit Control. They take that data from the airlines to square off. I’m just wondering how does this go when I re-entered back from Dublin to UK.

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