London: India will be one of the first countries to benefit from a new joint visa scheme signed between Ireland and the UK here on Monday.
The scheme, allowing visitors to the UK and the Republic of Ireland to use a common short-stay visa, was ratified by the British and Irish governments and will help travellers from outside the European Union (EU) move freely between the two jurisdictions on a single permit.
India and China will be the first two non-EU countries to benefit from the new regime.
The agreement was signed at the Irish Embassy here by UK home secretary Theresa May and Irish Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.
"This agreement will make it easier and more attractive for travellers to visit both Ireland and the UK, while at the same time strengthening Common Travel Area borders," said May.
Fitzgerald said it was a "landmark scheme" that "but a few years ago would have seemed an impossibility".
"It is truly remarkable, and a potent symbol of the transformation in British-Irish relations, that the home secretary and I are today jointly launching an initiative of unprecedented cooperation between our countries," she said.
Fitzgerald said it was "an historic development in the operation of the Common Travel Area", the arrangement that allows free movement between UK and Irish citizens.
"Our aim is to boost tourism and business travel to our countries and, together, we are sending a clear and powerful message that these islands are open for business," she added.