The Minister for Justice announced the extension of the Irish short-stay Visa Waiver Programme for a further period of four years.
This initiative, introduced for the first time last year, was welcomed as a very positive step in encouraging visitors to Ireland.
The programme had originally been due to last until the end of October this year but on consideration of a review of the Programme, the Government agreed to extend its duration.
The Minister also announced the following changes to the Programme; Bosnia and Herzegovina will be added to the existing list of 16 countries already covered by the Programme; As a further measure to encourage tourism, the fee for visas will be waived for long-term residents from the countries covered by the Programme who live in the Schengen area. This will be reviewed after six months.
The Minister stated that he was delighted that the Government had agreed to the extension of the Programme. \"There has been unanimous welcome for this initiative from the tourism promotion bodies and the tourism industry. The initial indications of the impact of the Programme are very positive. It was originally intended that the review of the Programme would follow the London Olympics period but on strong representations from the tourism industry I brought forward the review which was completed in recent weeks. Today\'s announcement will facilitate preparations for the 2013 tourist season during which I am confident the industry will maximise the potential of the Visa Waiver Programme\", the Minister said.
This scheme is an integral part of the Government\'s Jobs Initiative and is intended to promote tourism, particularly from emerging markets such as China, India and the Gulf Region. Under the Programme, tourists or business people who have lawfully entered the UK, including Northern Ireland, on a valid UK visa are able to travel on to Ireland without the requirement to obtain an Irish visa.
Minister Shatter pointed out that the full year cost of the existing measures and the new proposals, in terms of lost visa fee revenue, amounts to over €1m approximately. However, the Minister also said, \"Lost visa fee revenue will be more than made up for by the increased number of visitors to our shores from significant new markets.\" Minister Shatter added \"This Programme, together with other initiatives such as the forthcoming Investor and Entrepreneur Scheme for migrants, demonstrates the Government\'s commitment to innovative and imaginative approaches to promoting economic growth and recovery.\"
For more information on the Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme please visit http://www.discoverireland.com/ae/ireland-plan-your-visit/facts/Visa-Passport-and-Embassies/