The aim of the British-Irish Visa Scheme is to facilitate and promote legitimate travel to Ireland and the UK by visa required tourists and business visitors while also strengthening the external border of the Common Travel Area (CTA).

Further rollout of the Scheme to other countries will be agreed between the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of the Department of Justice and Equality and the UK Home Office.

The British-Irish Visa Scheme in practice – the Scheme will operate through a reciprocal visa arrangement, whereby Ireland and the UK recognise short-stay visas issued by the other for travel to their jurisdiction. This will allow the holder of such a visa issued by the country of first arrival thereafter to travel freely between Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland, for the duration of that visa.

For example, a visa required tourist from India who wishes to visit both Dublin and Belfast will be able to apply for an Irish short-stay visa which will allow them to travel directly to Dublin and then onwards to Northern Ireland without having to obtain a separate UK visa. Also if they are returning to Ireland following a visit to the UK, they will not require a re-entry visa.

As the British-Irish Visa Scheme is rolled out it will replace Ireland's Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme, introduced in July, 2011, which has proved to be a significant success. That Programme allows nationals from a number of countries to travel from the UK to Ireland using their UK visa.

The number of visitors from the countries in question grew by 68% from 2010 to 2013. The British-Irish Visa Scheme allows travel throughout the UK and
Ireland, whereas the Irish Visa Waiver Programme allowed travel in one direction only.