In a previous blog post, we explained travel from Ireland to the UK for non-visa nationals, and how such people may benefit from "deemed leave" when travelling within the Common Travel Area (CTA) – for example, when travelling from Dublin to London.

We also explained that deemed leave does not apply to British and Irish citizens, as they already have a right to enter the UK without having to rely on deemed leave. But, if deemed leave does not apply, how does travel between the UK and Ireland work for British and Irish citizens?

This blog post will provide an overview of the status of British citizens in Ireland, and of Irish citizens in the UK. In particular, it will explain how travel between the UK and Ireland works for British and Irish citizens. We also explain the position for the family members of such British or Irish nationals, where these family members are not themselves British or Irish. We explain the position both for family members who are nationals of European Economic Area states (i.e. "EEA nationals") and nationals of non-EEA states (i.e. "non-EEA nationals").

Please note that we are only able to advise on UK immigration law, and we cannot advise on Irish immigration law. While this blogpost includes references to elements of Irish law, this post is only intended as a starting point, and does not constitute advice on Irish immigration law. For further information on Irish immigration law, you may wish to consult the Irish Immigration Service webpage, or an immigration lawyer qualified to advise on Irish immigration law.

I'm a British Citizen Going to Ireland – Do I Need a Visa or Passport, and How Does Travel Work?

British citizens hold a unique status under Irish nationality law. If you are a British citizen, the existence of the CTA means that you do not need a visa or any residence or employment permit to visit, live, work or study in Ireland. Indeed, you do not technically need any ID to cross the Irish land border, as a matter of immigration law. You also have the right to access the public healthcare system in Ireland, and vote in general elections (though you likely cannot vote in Irish European elections, as UK citizens are no longer EU citizens).

While you do not technically need a passport to enter Ireland as a matter of immigration law, some carriers and airlines might require you to produce some ID, and Irish immigration officers do check the ID of all passengers arriving by air from the UK. As such, from a practical point of view, it is certainly wise to carry your British passport or other proof of British nationality when travelling to Ireland, particularly if you were born outside the UK.

I'm a British Citizen Going to Ireland – What About My Family?

All of the above applies if your family members are themselves British or Irish; they can enter Ireland in their own right.

The position is different for any non-EEA family members you might have. (Note that any EEA family members continue to benefit from their own free movement rights post-Brexit.)

If you and your non-EEA family member are visiting (rather than moving to) Ireland, your non-EEA family member needs a visa to enter Ireland, unless:

  • They have a short-term UK visa and qualify for the Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme or the British-Irish Visa Scheme; or
  • They are a citizen of certain listed countries.

In terms of more long-term travel, as of 01 January 2021, any non-EEA family members moving with you to Ireland must apply for a visa or preclearance approval letter. For more information on Irish immigration law, please see the relevant webpage on the Irish government website.

I'm an Irish Citizen Coming to the UK – Do I Need a Visa or Passport, and How Does Travel Work?

Similarly to British citizens in Ireland, Irish citizens hold a special status under UK nationality law (see also our earlier blog post on The Rights of Irish Citizens in the UK after Brexit). If you are an Irish citizen, you do not need permission to enter or remain in the UK (though there are limited exceptions – for instance, if you are subject to a deportation order).

This means that you can move freely between the UK and Ireland, and work or study in the UK, without any need to apply for a visa or for any work or residence permit. As an Irish citizen, you can also enter and stay in the UK without seeking permission, even if you are not travelling from Ireland.

In addition, you can access the UK's social security system (including benefits, social housing and pensions), and access the NHS in the same way as British citizens. You can also vote in national and local elections in the UK.

As with British citizens travelling to the UK, you do not technically need a passport to enter the UK, as a matter of immigration law. However, all air and sea carriers require some form of ID, and some immigration authorities may require you to produce some photographic ID showing your nationality. As such, it is always advisable to travel with your passport when coming to the UK, even directly from Ireland.

In law, when you come to live and work in the UK, you are considered to automatically acquire "settled" status, also known as "indefinite leave to remain". This also means that, unlike other EU citizens, you do not need to register under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

While Irish citizens may apply to the EUSS if they wish to do so and if they had lived continuously in the UK before 31 December 2020, any applications made now would be classed as a "late" application, requiring reasonable grounds for the lateness (see our previous blog post on late applications under the EUSS).

I'm an Irish Citizen Coming to the UK – What About My Family?

Again, the above explanations regarding British and Irish citizens apply if your family members are themselves British or Irish; they can enter the UK in their own right.

The situation is more complex for any family members coming with you who are not British or Irish. This is because the CTA only caters for British and Irish nationals, and does not provide residence rights for their family members if they are not themselves British or Irish. For CTA purposes, it does not matter whether your family members are EEA or non-EEA nationals.

If your family members are coming to the UK for a short-term visit, standard rules on visit visas apply, which vary depending on whether the family members are "visa nationals" or "non-visa nationals" (for more information, see our previous blog post on visit visas).

In terms of joining or accompanying you to come to the UK for the longer term, there are a few possible scenarios for your family members who are not British or Irish:

  • If your family members are EEA nationals and were living in the UK continuously before 31 December 2020, they may be eligible for settled or pre-settled status in their own right, regardless of whether they were living with you;
  • If your family members are non-EEA nationals, and were living with you in the UK continuously before 31 December 2020, they may be eligible for settled or pre-settled status as a family member of an EU citizen (by virtue of your Irish nationality);
  • If your family members were not living with you in the UK before 31 December 2020, but you were living in the UK before this date, your family members may be eligible to "join" you under the EUSS (whether they are EEA nationals or non-EEA nationals);
  • If neither you nor your family members were living in the UK before 31 December 2020, the EUSS will not apply (whether your family members are EEA nationals or non-EEA nationals). Your family members will therefore have to apply for entry clearance under Appendix FM.

Again, any applications made by your family members under the EUSS, whether for EUSS status or for an EUSS Family Permit, would also now be classed as a "late" application, and therefore subject to the same rules on late applications referred to above.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.