Visa-free travel ban from South America and South Africa extended

Minister for Justice confirms visa restrictions are extended for foreseeable future

Helen McEntee: These visa measures are ‘designed to support our current public health restrictions on movement, including into and out of Ireland’. File photograph: The Irish Times

Helen McEntee: These visa measures are ‘designed to support our current public health restrictions on movement, including into and out of Ireland’. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

The State’s ban on visa-free travel from all South American countries and South Africa has been extended until it is “no longer needed for public health reasons”, according to the Minister for Justice.

Helen McEntee said she had decided to extend the visa restrictions on passport holders from South America and South Africa under section 17 of the Immigration Act 2004 following a review of the measures.

Visa-free travel from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Uruguay along with South Africa has been banned since January 27th due to the spread of Covid-19 variants.

Prior to this date, travellers from many of these South American countries, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, did not need to acquire an entry visa or transit before arriving in Ireland.

However, the Department of Justice has also ceased accepting visa and preclearance applications from these countries with the exception of those considered priority or emergency. The measure was due to remain in place until March 5th but has been extended following a review.

In a parliamentary question to the minister, Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns requested proof of “scientific and medical evidence” on which the decision to introduce the visa ban had been based. And she asked for an update on the review of restrictions. Ms Cairns also asked whether passport holders from any other countries were to be banned from travelling to Ireland.

Health restrictions

In her response, published March 10th, Ms McEntee said she had decided to use her powers “to maintain these visa requirements after 5 March and until no longer needed for public health reasons”, adding that no further visa requirements had been introduced since February 17th when Ms Cairns last questioned her on the topic.

These visa measures are “designed to support our current public health restrictions on movement, including into and out of Ireland,” and the decision to introduce the ban was made based on expert public health advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team, said Ms McEntee.

“The strong advice is that everyone, regardless of their nationality or visa/preclearance status, or where they started their travel from, who cannot provide proof of an essential purpose to travel to or within Ireland, should not travel to Ireland.

“Further visa requirements may be introduced to other non-EEA countries in the future, where they are deemed necessary and appropriate, to support public health measures approved by the Government.”