South Africa and Botswana citizens will no longer be allowed visa-free travel to Ireland

Papers to be required for citizens of both countries as additional measure to address the sharp rise in international protection applicants in 2024

By the end of May, the number applying for international protection was more than double that in the same five-month period last year. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins

Citizens of Botswana and South Africa will be required to obtain a visa to travel to Ireland from next week under arrangements announced by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.

People who have travelled from either country to Ireland have not until now required visas to enter the State. Both have also been designated as safe countries of origin.

The move is being taken in light of what the Department of Justice has described as “a significant number of international protection applications” being received from nationals of Botswana and South Africa.

Neither country featured in the top five nationalities of the more than 9,000 people who applied for international protection in the five months to the end of May. Nearly one in three (2,843) applications were made by citizens of Nigeria, followed by Jordan (718), Pakistan (677), Bangladesh (600) and Somalia (586). Less than 500 applications combined were made by people from South Africa and Botswana.


Ms McEntee said South Africa and Botswana were the only countries on the safe list that did not require its citizens to obtain visas before travelling to Ireland.

“This is a carefully considered decision which will bring Ireland into closer alignment with the Schengen Area in respect of both of these countries, and into line with the UK in respect of South Africa,” she said. “Irish visa requirements are kept under ongoing review, having regard to the need to ensure that effective immigration controls are in place whilst also facilitating those who wish to travel to Ireland for the purposes of a visit, to work, to study, or to join family members.”

The Minister said the Dublin visa office would now establish a dedicated “South Africa desk” to process applications from South African nationals. She said the Department of Foreign Affairs would also establish three visa application centres, located throughout South Africa, with visa service provider Global VFS.

The Government has introduced a raft of measures and restrictions following a sharp increase in the number of people seeking asylum on arrival into the State. By the end of May, the number of people who had applied for international protection was more than double the total who applied in the same five-month period last year.

Among the new measures is an accelerated processing period for those who are citizens of the country that has had the most asylum applications, irrespective of it being designated a safe country of origin. At present, that applies to Nigerian nationals.

Some 115 people have been arrested in the first half of this year for arriving without appropriate documentation and a significant number have been convicted. Document checks of people crossing the border from Northern Ireland have also been stepped up as a response to evidence of an increasing number of people using the land and sea route from Britain via Northern Ireland to enter the State.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times