My mother (South African) recently travelled to visit me in Northern Ireland and arrived in Dublin with her UK visa in her passport, as she has done 12 times before. She was given great trouble at immigration in Dublin airport and threatened with being sent back.

She was alone and in a wheelchair and eventually allowed entry with a warning to never do this again! She has previously traveled the same route many times with no problem. She was also told she had to activate her visa for the UK...

She was going to travel by car from Dublin to Northern Ireland, and with no hard border between NI and ROI she wouldn't have come into contact with any UK immigration.

Just wondering if anyone else has had the same issue recently?

  • @Traveller South Africa is on Ireland's visa exemption list, so a South African citizen should never require an Irish visa for any sort of transit through the Irish Republic.
    – phoog
    Apr 25, 2019 at 4:30
  • @phoog I didn’t intend to imply that they do. However the link states ‘When you arrive at the airport/seaport in Ireland, you may not pass through border control while you wait for your connection. If you do need to pass through border control, you must prove that you have a valid reason for entering Ireland to an Immigration Officer. An Immigration Officer will decide whether you can pass through border control.’ That is, the normal decision about whether to allow a visa-free national to enter or not.
    – Traveller
    Apr 25, 2019 at 7:19
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    @Traveller I see. That is of course true, but "to travel to Northern Ireland" is certainly a valid reason to enter Ireland, unless there's some requirement to "activate" the UK visa.
    – phoog
    Apr 25, 2019 at 12:57
  • Thanks for the replies - she was travelling by car , driven by myself as there's no border control between N Ireland and Republic of Ireland ( at present) she would not have come into contact with any Uk immigration at any point. Apr 28, 2019 at 22:36
  • Thanks, @phoog, for your Comment that disappeared when I deleted my Answer. I hadn't understood that. I'll delete my other comments and answer. Still I can understand Irish immigration disliking or being unwilling to let her into Ireland knowing that she intended to travel by land and enter the UK through the uncontrolled border. Oct 30, 2019 at 0:06

1 Answer 1


The problem I see here is that South African passport holders do not require a visa to visit Ireland, but do require a visa to visit the UK. And as you know, there is (currently) no passport check at the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK). I would wonder how and when your mother's visa would ever be checked for its validity by UK immigration. I doubt the Irish immigration officers have any obligation to check on behalf of UK immigration, so maybe that is what they were concerned about. Even though it all looks above board and proper, I am not sure it is their responsibility.

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    I don't know if it's their responsibility, but I can easily imagine that Irish immigration would not like the OP's mother's plan to enter the UK via an uncontrolled border, and treated her with some skepticism and difficulty. Oct 30, 2019 at 0:08

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