Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, TD, announces addition of Thailand to Visa Waiver Programme.

Tourist and other short-stay visitor numbers likely to rise.

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter, TD, today announced that, from next Monday, 18 November, citizens of Thailand will be able to avail of the Irish Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme. Based on current experience with other visa waiver countries in Asia, this is likely to prove a significant boost to efforts to attract more visitors to Ireland from Thailand.

The Minister has signed the necessary legislation to add Thailand to the list of seventeen countries currently covered by the Programme. The Minister launched the Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme, the first programme of its kind in the history of the State, on 1 July 2011. This allows visitors or business people from seventeen countries who have lawfully entered the UK, including Northern Ireland, on a valid UK visa, to travel on to Ireland without the requirement to obtain an Irish visa. CSO figures that there was a 38% increase in the number of visitors from the countries involved in 2012 compared to 2010, the last full year before the introduction of the Programme.

The Minister said that the Programme was an "unqualified success" and that the CSO figures demonstrated a real positive impact of the Government’s initiative.

"Tourists have started to come back again to Ireland in increasing numbers and the introduction of the visa waiver programme as an aid to this resurgence in the market has been described as a step change. I am delighted to add the growing tourism and business market of Thailand to the list of countries covered by the Programme", he added. The Minister pointed out that well over 500,000 Thais visited Europe in 2012 with about 140,000 going to the UK but less than 6,000 coming to Ireland. "This shows the potential of this move", the Minister said. The waiver opens up visa free travel to Ireland via the UK for this large pool of visitors. As a side trip they may now travel on here for up to 90 days without an Irish visa and without the necessity to complete any further paperwork. In addition to the paperwork involved, Thai nationals would also have had to pay the cost of a visit visa i.e. €60 per adult and child. Like all other nationals of countries in the Irish visa waiver programme, they will no longer bear these costs.

He also pointed out that officials of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of his Department continue to work with their UK counterparts on developing reciprocal visa arrangements for the Common Travel Area for introduction in the middle of next year. "The eventual plan is to have a system whereby only one visa is required to travel to and around the Common Travel Area", explained the Minister. "In the meantime, the Irish Visa Waiver Programme continues to bring significant benefits to the economy."

14 November, 2013

ENDS

Note for Editors:

The Irish Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme was introduced by the Government with effect from 1 July 2011. The Programme now covers nationals of eighteen countries which have been identified as growing markets for both tourist and business visitors. It forms part of the Governments Action Plan for Jobs.

The countries covered are:

Eastern Europe: Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine

Middle East: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates

Other Asian: India, Kazakhstan, China, Thailand and Uzbekistan

The Programme allows visitors who hold UK short stay visas and who have travelled through the UK to travel on to Ireland without the need to apply for a separate Irish visa. The Government decided, in March 2012, to extend the Programme until the end of October 2016.

This Programme, has led to a significant growth in the number of visits to Ireland from the countries involved. For example, in the twelve months following its introduction, according to Central Statistics Office figures, the number of trips from China increased by over 26% from 12,314 to 15,572 – an extra 3,258 visits. Overall, visits from all seventeen countries increased by 38% in 2012 compared to 2010, the last full year before the Programme’s introduction.