By Gráinne Ní Aodha and David Young, PA
The UK government appears to have abandoned plans that would have required non-Irish nationals permanently resident in Ireland to apply for a visa waiver to travel to Northern Ireland.
The provision had been opposed by the Irish Government, which had warned that it could disrupt the lives of people across the island who are not Irish or British citizens, particularly those living along the border.
The UK government has said the new requirement would be smooth, light-touch, and would aim to “strengthen our border”.
The scheme, which is similar to the visa waiver system used in the US, would result in short-term non-visa visitors to the UK applying for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) and providing biometric data.
Irish citizens do not need an ETA to travel to Northern Ireland as they already have guaranteed free movement under the terms of the Common Travel Area.
But non-Irish EU citizens and other international passport holders, including those who live permanently south of the border, would have had to apply for the visa waiver.
However, in an update published by the UK government on Thursday, it said that among those who will not need to apply for such authorisation include those legally resident in Ireland.
The UK Government said in a statement that “individuals arriving in the UK via Ireland, will still be subject to UK immigration requirements, including the need for visitors to have an ETA”.
It added: “Those legally resident in Ireland will not need an ETA when travelling to the UK from within the Common Travel Area.”
The visa waiver system is to be introduced on a phased basis from the end of the year, though details such as the cost of an ETA are yet to be clarified.