Ireland axes visa-free travel for SA

South African and Botswanan passport holders must obtain a visa before travelling to the Republic of Ireland from July 10, Irish Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee has announced.

The Minister added that a transit visa would also be required if nationals of either country intended to transit through Ireland en route to other destinations.

Giving the reason for the turnaround, the Irish Department of Justice said a significant number of International Protection applications had been received from nationals of Botswana and South Africa in recent years. 

Both countries are designated safe countries of origin for International Protection purposes. A ‘safe country of origin’ refers to a nation where someone seeking asylum is unlikely to face threats of persecution, torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or indiscriminate violence, and are the only countries on the list of ‘safe countries’ that do not currently require visas.

“This is a carefully considered decision which will bring Ireland into closer alignment with the Schengen Area in respect of both of these countries and into line with the UK in respect of South Africa,” said McEntee.

“Irish visa requirements are kept under ongoing review, having regard for the need to ensure that effective immigration controls are in place whilst also facilitating those who wish to travel to Ireland for the purposes of a visit, to work, to study, or to join family members.”

The Dublin Visa Office will establish a dedicated ‘South Africa desk’ to process applications from South African nationals.

The Department will also establish three Visa Applications Centres, located throughout South Africa, with visa service provider VFS Global.

“The visa system is an essential part of our immigration system to determine who can travel to Ireland. A wide range of factors are taken in account when introducing visa requirements to ensure we can continue to facilitate travel with processes that are robust, effective, and fair,” McEntee noted.

The new visa requirement will not apply to diplomatic passport holders.

Transitional arrangements will be put in place for nationals of the two countries who have existing arrangements (made before July 10) to travel to Ireland, up until August 9.

Nationals of South Africa and Botswana who have existing travel arrangements are advised to check the Irish Immigration Service’s website for more information.

The price of the visa is not yet known.


By Christiaan Schultz