Residents of the Island of Ireland will be all too familiar with the procedure required to cross the border between Northern Ireland (in the United Kingdom) and the Republic of Ireland (that’s us!).
Passport, immigration card, customs declaration forms, insurance documents: it can take up to an hour just to get across!
But did you know that Irish citizens can now travel from one side of the island to another without passing through any form of border control?
Can you travel from Ireland to England without a passport?
If you are travelling by air between Dublin, Belfast or Cork airports, then there is no need to show your passport or even have it available for inspection.
When departing one of these airports you simply complete the departure card (which is included in your flight ticket) and hand it in to the border control officer at the gate.
The same procedure applies on arrival into Ireland, you just hand in your arrival card as you leave passport control. This applies equally to residents of Northern Ireland who are travelling between Belfast or Dublin airports or indeed between Cork Airport and Belfast.
The scheme has been running since 4th January 2007 for flights between Dublin and Belfast/Cork or any other European destination; it was extended to apply only to all British airports from mid 2007 but that restriction has now been lifted again. You can find more details about how this scheme operates here: DFA
Crossing to England via Dublin
If you’re leaving Ireland via Dublin and flying to any destination other than Belfast, Cork or Shannon then you can also avoid border control by checking in 3 hours before your flight time.
You’ll have to be travelling with at least one other person; if you are alone for whatever reason (e.g. as a child) the airlines will require that you check in several hours earlier at the airport – it’s probably easier just to use the land borders!
The departure cards required are available from both airports and in fact even on board many of the flights themselves, but they do not need completing until you arrive at passport control so don’t worry about doing it whilst waiting for your flight.
If you fail to check in before the deadline, then you must proceed straight to passport control where they will check your documents and direct you where to go.
Crossing to England via Cork Airport
The same procedure applies from Cork Airport as from Dublin; however, if you are departing for Belfast or Shannon rather than Cork or Dublin then it is also possible to avoid border control by simply checking in two hours before your flight time – again, you must be travelling with at least one other person.
As above, the departure card required is available on board most flights but does not need completing until passport control so don’t worry about doing it whilst waiting for your flight!
How to travel from Ireland to England without a passport?
So, you can avoid both Irish and British border control by simply checking in three hours before your flight time, even if you are flying to Belfast or Shannon!
If you’re driving across the border then things aren’t nearly as simple. Your passport is still needed for both countries (although it is not required for residents of Northern Ireland who wish to drive into the Republic), but drivers from foreign EU/EEA countries will not need to obtain an international driver’s license [unless they have been living abroad less than twelve months].
However, those without a passport must fill out a number of papers; what exactly depends on where you’re going but basically every non-EU citizen must present their current residency permit and their car registration papers plus proof that the car has insurance.
However, if you’re not leaving Ireland for more than three months it’s unlikely that you’ll encounter any problems even if your documents are a few days out of date. The authorities are surprisingly tolerant about this!
Do I need a passport to stay over?
If you intend to stay in Ireland/Britain for longer than this then the rules change: both countries require visitors from non-EU countries to obtain an International Driving Permit [IDP] and it must be carried at all times when driving; they can be obtained at most larger post offices or motoring organizations such as the AA.
These cost in the region of 13 pounds from British sources and 15 euro from Irish sources [there are several websites available].
It is possible to hire a car without a passport but that is generally only available from within Ireland and the full cost must be paid in advance, i.e. it’s not possible to leave a deposit!
Can I travel around England without a passport?
If you’re intent on travelling around Britain without your passport, then it’s probably still best to hire a car rather than assume you’ll get away with using public transport.
To travel by air or ferry without being asked for your passport, you will need to use an EU identity card which can be obtained from most larger libraries or post offices – more information about these cards (which are essentially just the front pages of passports!) can be found here: Traveling
They should also allow you to drive but I have never tried this!
For information about travelling from Ireland to Britain, the UK Border Agency website has a very useful section on travelling between Ireland and Britain: Here
It’s well worth reading before you travel as it may save you time if anything goes wrong at customs or border control (although I’ve never had any problems myself)!
Within Europe there are no formal passport checks so even if immigration notices tell you otherwise, there is rarely anyone actually present to check your documents; nevertheless, it can’t hurt to have them with you just in case!