ETIAS, the European Travel and Information Authorization System, will be implemented in 2021. Citizens of over 60 countries will need ETIAS to enter the Schengen Zone. Several people who wish to travel to Ireland in the future have several questions in regards to the need for an ETIAS to visit Ireland. Is Ireland part of the Schengen Zone? Is it a member country of the EU? Isn’t Ireland part of the UK?

ETIAS is only meant to be used to visit any of the 26 member countries of the Schengen Area. Ireland, at this time, is not part of the Schengen Zone, but it is a EU member country. We must also note that there’s a difference between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Only the latter is part of the UK and as Brexit approaches several issues regarding the border between Ireland and the UK have risen. Confused? We will explain everything you need to know about Ireland and ETIAS.

What is the difference between Ireland and Northern Ireland?

Ireland’s official name is the Republic of Ireland and it’s not part of the UK. However, while is not a member of the Schengen Zone, Ireland is a member of the European Union.

Northern Ireland is part of the UK, officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Other countries that encompass the UK are England, Scotland and Wales.

Even if the UK hadn’t voted to leave the EU, ETIAS would have not been valid to travel to the UK, because the UK did not sign the Schengen Agreement. At this time, it is expected that ETIAS will be necessary to travel to the Schengen Zone only.

In short, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are separate countries. The Republic of Ireland will remain part of the EU and Northern Ireland will continue to be part of the United Kingdom.

A bit of history of Ireland

To understand the situation better, we want to provide you with a bit of background. Known internationally as the Northern Ireland Conflict, a political and nationalistic conflict begun in the last 1960s fuelled by historical events. One of the key issues was the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Unionists and loyalists, mostly Protestants, wanted Northern Ireland to remain in the UK. Irish nationalists and republicans, mostly Catholics, wanted Northern Ireland to join a united Ireland.

The conflict began during a campaign to end discrimination against the Catholic minority by the police force and the Protestant/unionist government. The authorities tried to suppress the campaign and were accused of police brutality. Violence between the groups led to riots in August 1969 and the deployment of British troops. Additionally, paramilitary organizations emerged and all of these events led to a warfare that lasted three decades.

The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is a sensitive topic and a very important one. What happens when the UK leaves the EU will have several consequences. Due to the violent past, it’s no wonder that determining how border control will function between these two countries has been a major headache for Prime Minister Theresa May.

Why is Ireland not part of the Schengen Area?

The Republic of Ireland is a member of the European Union, but it has not joined the Schengen Zone. Currently, Ireland and the UK maintain a Common Travel Area with passport-free travel for their citizens and the three British Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, which are not part of the European Union. Gibraltar is not part of the Schengen Area nor the Common Travel Area.

The UK declined to sign up to the Schengen Agreement arguing that for an island nation, frontier controls are a better way to prevent illegal immigration than other measures. Ireland, for its part, did not want to sign the Schengen Agreement because it "would not be in the interest of Ireland to have a situation where the common travel area with Britain would be ended and Ireland would impose both exit and entry controls on persons traveling between here and Britain and, in addition, on the land frontier".

In conclusion, the main reason Ireland did not join the Schengen Agreement is because they wish to control the immigration status of non EU citizens. Ireland is not part of mainland Europe, and it made sense for the country to control their borders the way they see fit.

The Schengen Agreement was designed to provide uniform border rules for all its member countries. The Schengen visa, for instance, grants its holders a stay of up to 90 days in the region. Meaning, a Schengen visa can be used to travel around the 26 countries that signed the agreement for a stay of up to 90 days within a 180-day period.

ETIAS is not a replacement of the Schengen visa. ETIAS is a visa waiver for citizens of countries that are currently exempt from visa requirements to the Schengen Area.

Will I need ETIAS to visit Ireland or not?

The straight answer is no, you will not need an ETIAS visa waiver to travel to Ireland. If you wish to visit Ireland you will need to check their entry requirements according to your nationality.

Citizens of over 60 countries will be eligible for the ETIAS visa waiver when it comes out in 2021. The ETIAS travel authorization only grants entry to Schengen member countries. This does not include Ireland.

To travel to Northern Ireland or any country in the United Kingdom you will also need to consult their entry requirements.