Indian tourists and business visitors will be able to avail of a new scheme from November which will enable them to visit Britain and Ireland on a single visa, issued by either country.
An agreement to this effect was signed here on Monday by British Home secretary Theresa May and Ireland minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald. A similar joint visa scheme is being rolled out for China from later this month.
The joint visa scheme is expected to benefit over 10,000 visitors from India in a year.
Britain will also shortly lift transit visas for visitors en route to Ireland. Under the new scheme, ?Ireland will share Britain's network of visa application centres, which will allow for joint vetting of applicants and exchange of data.
Fitzgerald said: "Our aim is to boost tourism and business travel to our countries and, together, we are sending a clear and powerful message that these islands are open for business. We are saying, ‘Visit our beautiful and historic lands, come and experience the best that we both have to offer’.”
She added: “The scheme will benefit the Northern Irish economy in particular, by allowing Chinese and Indian visitors to the Republic of Ireland the opportunity to visit Northern Ireland without having to obtain a separate UK visa".
May said: “This agreement will make it easier and more attractive for travellers to visit both Ireland and the UK, while at the same strengthening Common Travel Area borders.”
India and China are the first countries to benefit from the British-Irish visa scheme. A review in early 2015 is likely to lead to the rollout of the scheme to all countries by the end of the next year, official sources said.