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Ireland and China sign diplomatic visa waiver agreement

Diplomatic Relations, Ireland, Minister Charles Flanagan, Trade, Visas, Press Releases, Ireland, Asia and Oceania, 2015



Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, TD, and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, Wang Yi today (Sunday) signed a diplomatic visa waiver agreement between Ireland and China.

The Agreement on Mutual Exemption for Holders of Diplomatic and Service (Official) Passports provides that holders of valid diplomatic and, in some circumstances, official passports of both countries will be exempt from visa requirements for visits of up to 90 days to the other country. The signing was witnessed by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Premier Li is in Ireland for a visit to the West Coast and is accompanied by a number of Chinese Government Ministers.

This evening (Sunday) An Taoiseach and Premier Li, together with their Ministers, held a bilateral meeting in Ashford Castle.

Welcoming the agreement, Minister Flanagan said:

“I am very pleased that we were able to conclude an agreement on a diplomatic visa waiver with our Chinese visitors today. It is a sign of the growing friendship between our two countries and the intensified trade and investment relationship.

“As I know from my own visit to China last December, visits at Ministerial and senior official level to and from China are particularly important to developing the official and legal frameworks within which our bilateral relationship can continue to flourish. This agreement will facilitate visits and intensified cooperation on both sides.

“The waiver signed today is complementary to the British Irish Visa Scheme, introduced by this Government, and rolled out in China last autumn, which allows Chinese passport holders to travel to both Ireland and the UK on a single valid visitor visa issued by either Ireland or the UK. This should lead to a steady increase in Chinese tourism to Ireland.

“I was pleased to have the opportunity to again have useful discussions with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and to build on our engagement in Beijing late last year. China is an important trading partner for Ireland with total trade between our two countries worth over €8 bn in 2013 and continuing to expand. Last year China overtook the US as the second biggest destination for Irish food exports after the EU, with agri food exports to China valued at €620 million.”

Recently, Ireland became the first EU country to have the Chinese ban on beef imports lifted; this will pave the way for Irish beef exports to a rapidly growing Chinese market.



Press Office

17 May 2015

Note to Editors:

· China is a key strategic partner for Ireland. During the Taoiseach’s visit to China in 2012, a Strategic Partnership for Mutually Beneficial Co-Operation was signed between Ireland and China. The two sides agreed to build on their good relations and to establish a strategic partnership for mutually beneficial co-operation covering political, economic, trade, investment, food and agricultural, science and technology, educational, tourism and services fields.

· The visit by Premier Li follows on from the recent State Visit to China in December 2014 and is indicative of the ongoing high level engagement between the Irish and Chinese Governments.

· In July, 2011, the Government launched the first ever Irish Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme. Under this 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. The Programme covers eighteen countries including major emerging tourism and business markets and included China from the beginning. The Programme has proven extremely successful leading to an increase in visits from the countries covered by it of 68% from 2010 (the last full year before its introduction) and 2013.

· Building on the success of this Programme, negotiations commenced with the United Kingdom authorities on the development of a reciprocal programme i.e. of also allowing visitors with an Irish visa to travel to the UK on the basis of that visa. These negotiations led to the establishment of the British Irish Visa Scheme which was launched in October 2014. China was the first country where the Scheme was implemented later that month. The Scheme, which will supersede the Waiver Programme, allows visitors to travel to and around the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK, including between the north and south of the island of Ireland, on a single visa.

· Diplomatic Visa Waiver Agreement between Ireland and China: The agreement will enable diplomatic passport holders of Ireland and the People’s Republic of China to be exempt from visa requirements for entry into, exit from or transit through the other territory for a period of stay not exceeding 90 days from the date of their entry (i.e. short term official visits). Official passport holders who travel in the company of a Minister on official visits of this short term duration will also be visa-exempt. Irish and Chinese citizens will otherwise require visas to visit the other country. The diplomatic visa waiver agreement represents a goodwill gesture between Ireland and China.