The Common Travel Area, and the special status of Irish nationals in UK law
By Terry McGuinness and Melanie Gower
The Common Travel Area (CTA) is a special travel zone between the Republic of Ireland and the UK, Isle of Man and Channel Islands. It dates back to the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922.
This briefing focuses on how the CTA operates between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
Nationals of CTA countries can travel freely within the CTA without being subject to passport controls. The arrangements for non-CTA nationals are more complex. Although there are minimal immigration checks for journeys started within the CTA, non-CTA nationals must have the relevant immigration permission for the country they are seeking to enter. Until the UK exits the EU, citizens of EEA member states have prevailing rights of entry and residence in the UK and Ireland under EU ‘free movement’ law.
Although both the Republic of Ireland and the UK maintain their own visa and immigration policies, there is a significant degree of practical cooperation and policy coordination in order to ensure the security of the CTA. Controls on the Irish border are also generally regarded as impractical and undesirable.