The Common Travel Area (CTA) is a long-standing arrangement between the UK, the Crown Dependencies (Bailiwick of Jersey, Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Isle of Man) and Ireland that pre-dates both British and Irish membership of the EU and is not dependent on it.
Under the CTA, British and Irish citizens can move freely and reside in either jurisdiction and enjoy associated rights and privileges, including the right to work, study and vote in certain elections, as well as to access social welfare benefits and health services.
The UK and Irish governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in May 2019 reaffirming our commitment to maintain the CTA, and the associated rights and privileges, in all circumstances. On signing the MoU, both governments released a Joint Statement.
1. Travelling and residing in the CTA
If you’re an Irish citizen living in the UK or a British citizen living in Ireland the Common Travel Area (CTA) arrangements allow you to travel freely within the CTA.
British citizens in Ireland and Irish citizens in the UK hold a unique status under each country’s national law. You do not need permission to enter or remain in the UK, including a visa, any form of residence permit or employment permit.
This status will continue once free movement ends at 11pm on 31 December 2020.
Because you do not need permission to come and live in the UK under CTA arrangements, you cannot apply under the new points-based immigration system.
You cannot travel freely within the CTA if you’re subject to either:
- a deportation order
- an exclusion decision
- an international travel ban
You’ll need to apply for permission to come to the UK if any one of these apply to you.
If you have family members who are not Irish or British citizens, they’re not covered by CTA arrangements. You can bring family members to the UK on a family visa in the same way as a British citizen, or they may be eligible to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme.
Your family members may also be able to come to the UK if you’re:
Other nationalities travelling within the CTA remain subject to national immigration requirements. You need to check if you need a UK visa if you’re not British or Irish and are travelling to the UK from Ireland.
2. Working in the CTA
If you are a British or Irish citizen, you can work in either country, including on a self-employed basis, without needing any permission from the authorities.
In support of this, the UK government is committed to ensuring that appropriate and comprehensive provisions continue to be in place for the recognition of professional qualifications obtained in Ireland. The Irish government has also committed to working to ensure the provision of arrangements with the UK to recognise professional qualifications.
3. Accessing education in the CTA
If you are a British or Irish citizen you have the right to access all levels of education in either state on terms no less favourable than those available to the citizens of that state. Both governments have committed to taking steps to ensure that this continues.
Both governments have also committed to taking steps to ensure that British and Irish citizens pursuing further and higher education in the other state will continue to have the right to qualify for student loans and support under applicable schemes and eligibility conditions.
4. Accessing social security benefits in the CTA
If you are a British or Irish citizen residing or working in the other’s state, working in both states or working across the border you are subject to only one state’s social security legislation at a time. You can access social security benefits and entitlements, including pensions, from whichever state you are subject to the social security legislation of, regardless of where you are living.
When working in the CTA, you pay into only one state’s social security scheme at a time and are entitled, when in the other state, to the same social security rights, and are subject to the same obligations, as citizens of that state.
You also have the right to access social security benefits on the same basis as citizens of the state you are in. The UK and Irish governments have concluded a bilateral agreement to ensure that these rights will continue to be protected. Further information about that agreement can be found here.
5. Accessing health care in the CTA
If you are a British or Irish citizen you have the right to access health care in either state. When visiting you also have the right to access needs-arising health care during your stay. Both governments have committed to taking steps to ensure that this will continue.
6. Accessing social housing support in the CTA
If you are a British or Irish citizen residing in the other state you have the right to access social housing, including supported housing and homeless assistance, on the same basis as citizens of that state. Both governments have committed to taking steps to ensure that this will continue.
7. Voting rights in the CTA
If you are a British or Irish citizen living in the other state you are entitled to register to vote with the relevant authorities for local and national parliamentary elections in that state on the same basis as citizens of that state. Upon reaching voting age, you are entitled to vote in those elections on the same basis as citizens of that state. Both governments have committed to ensuring that these arrangements will continue.
8.a. Irish citizens and the EU Settlement Scheme
You do not need to do anything to protect your status in the UK once free movement ends at 11pm on 31 December 2020. You will continue to be able to enter and reside in the UK and to enjoy your existing rights as provided for by the CTA arrangements.
If you’re an Irish citizen in the UK you do not need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme but you may do so if you wish. The application process is the same as for any other applicant.
However, if you choose to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, the application process is the same as for any other EU citizen applicant.
If you are an Irish citizen, you will still be able to be joined in the UK after 31 December 2020 by close non-Irish and non-UK family members. If you want to support an application from existing (at 31 December 2020) non-Irish and non-UK family members or future children, you will need to be able to prove that you were continuously resident in the UK prior to 31 December 2020. There will be many ways to do this without you applying to the EU Settlement Scheme, but a grant of status under the Scheme would constitute such evidence. Alternatively, you might wish to consider retaining documents such as payslips, bank statements, utility bills, tenancy agreements or other dated documents which display your UK address.
Where you are an Irish citizen and do not choose to apply for status, your family member simply needs to provide evidence of your identity and nationality, of their relationship to you and of your continuous residence in the UK.
8.b. Irish citizens and the Service Providers from Switzerland route
The Service Providers from Switzerland route will open in December 2020 and is expected to run until 31 December 2025. The route allows eligible service providers to travel to the UK to execute an eligible contract(s) for a maximum of 90 days per calendar year.
To be eligible:
- the contract must have been signed and commenced before 11pm on 31 December 2020
- if they are an employee, the service provider’s employer must be based in Switzerland
The route does not allow for dependants or family members. All service providers from Switzerland wishing to use this route must hold status under it before they come to the UK.
If you’re an Irish citizen who does not need permission to come to the UK under CTA arrangements, you will not need to apply for entry clearance as a service provider from Switzerland but you can do so if you wish.
Further information about the Service Providers from Switzerland route will be available on GOV.UK in due course.
8.c. Irish citizens and the S2 Healthcare Visitor route
The S2 Healthcare Visitor route will provide a route to enter the UK from 1 January to allow eligible persons to undertake, or accompany a person undertaking, scheduled treatment authorised under the ‘S2 route’, where authorisation was requested before 11pm on 31 December 2020.
If you’re an Irish citizen with rights provided for under the CTA arrangements you will not be required to apply for permission to enter the UK as an S2 Healthcare Visitor.
Non-Irish citizens accompanying an eligible Irish citizen can apply to enter as an S2 Healthcare Visitor without the Irish citizen having to make an application of their own. They will need to provide certain evidence about the eligible Irish citizen to do so.
Further information about the S2 Healthcare Visitor route, including the evidence that will need to be provided, will be published on GOV.UK shortly.
8.d. Irish citizens and the Frontier Worker Permit Scheme
The Withdrawal Agreement protects the rights of EU citizen frontier workers (people who work in the UK but reside elsewhere) who have begun working in the UK by the 31 December 2020. You can come to the UK and work once free movement ends, for as long as you continue to be a frontier worker.
If you’re an Irish citizen with rights provided for by the CTA arrangements, you will not need to hold a frontier worker permit in order to travel to the UK to work but you will be able to apply for a permit if you wish.
If you have family members you want to bring to the UK who are not Irish or British citizens, they can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). You do not need to hold a permit in order for your family member to apply to the EUSS but the application may be easier if you have a frontier worker permit.
Your family member will need to show: evidence of the family relationship, and evidence that the family member meets the definition of frontier worker under the relevant regulations.