At some time post-pandemic, a family member intends to visit the UK and the Republic of Ireland. While they are a UK citizen by birth, they have been resident in Canada for many years, and only hold a Canadian passport at present.

While visiting the UK, they would like to visit Ireland (by ferry) for a few days. I understand that UK citizens can travel freely in the Common Travel Area, but ferry operator Stena Line recommend bringing some proof of citizenship[1]:

British or Irish citizens travelling on our Irish Sea routes do not need a passport to travel to Britain or Ireland but are advised to take a form of identity. A valid passport, photographic driving license, International Student Card, government issued photo ID card, health insurance/social security photographic card, photographic bus/train pass or EU Citizen Identity Card will usually suffice.

The traveller has a UK birth certificate (short form), but none of the documents listed above. (They could apply for a new UK passport, but would prefer not having to go through the hassle and expense of doing so.)

If they chose to travel on their Canadian passport alone, what procedures or difficulties should they anticipate when sailing from the UK to Ireland?


3 Answers 3


Although it doesn't say so explicitly the advice you are reading is aimed at British Citizens who don't hold another citizenship. It is for people who claim British citizenship as their reason for being allowed to travel, but who will need to be able to prove it on that ferry because of the EU exit deal.

If you are legitimately in the UK and Ireland as a Canadian citizen then nobody will worry about whether you are also a British citizen or whether you can prove it. I am a dual citizen who always travels with only my Canadian passport, even to the UK, and it has never caused me trouble. On occasion I have told UK immigration that I am also a British citizen and they have neither cared nor been surprised.

Carry your Canadian passport and show it when required. It will be entirely acceptable, as it would be for any Canadian citizen. If asked, on the ferry or elsewhere, whether you are also a British citizen say yes, but that you don't have a passport or other proof. As long as you are doing nothing that is illegal for a Canadian citizen you will have no trouble at all.

  • 4
    This is correct. I've taken the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin and back twice with a Canadian passport (and no British citizenship), Irish immigration was present on only one of the trips and I'm pretty sure she gave me my passport back without even stamping it. They may be checking more reliably now because of customs issues but this should be uneventful for a Canadian staying a short time, British or not.
    – user38879
    Commented Apr 25, 2021 at 23:11
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    I believe the recommendation to have some ID predates Brexit. It is simply because the CTA is not really a transparent travel area like the Schengen Area, it only allows UK and IE citizens to travel freely between the two countries, but others need their own ID, and possibly separate visas. So for UK and IE citizens the benefit of free travel, agents need to know that they are indeed UK or IE citizens. Note that the requirement is much lighter than for others as many forms of ID not usually accepted will be accepted in this case. Though how a bus pass proves your nationality is beyond me...
    – jcaron
    Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 8:04
  • @jcaron I can vouch that the guidance is largely unchanged since before Brexit: I referred to it roughly seven years ago when my wife and I were going to holiday in Ireland. I had a full driving license, but she insisted that I renew my (UK) passport "just in case". My Canadian passport stayed at home throughout.
    – Kaz
    Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 11:38
  • On occasion I have told UK immigration that I am also a British citizen and they have neither cared nor been surprised. You could tell them you were a Vulcan marsupial for all they care - all that matters to them is whether or not you have documentation to support whatever claims you make. Anything else is just irrelevant chit-chat, and they're (usually) very busy people and very good at filtering out irrelevant statements. I'm sure most would actually appreciate you not padding your conversation with this kind of irrelevancy to begin with, to be honest.
    – J...
    Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 17:39

If they chose to travel on their Canadian passport alone, what procedures or difficulties should they anticipate when sailing from the UK to Ireland?

As per your question, if we ignore all the UK-Ireland common travel area stuff, and go solely based on Candian citizenship, you can check the Irish Department of Justice website for guidance on what visas are needed by different nationalities.

Based on the details you've given, if you answer:

  1. What nationality is shown on your passport or travel document? Canada
  2. How long do you want to stay in Ireland? Less than 3 months
  3. What do you want to do in Ireland? Tourism, visit friends/family, business or other reasons

It says:

You do not need a visa

You do not need a visa to come to Ireland for tourism or similar reasons. However, other immigration procedures apply.

When you travel

Prepare for border control

You will need to prove that you have a valid reason for entering Ireland to an immigration officer at border control.

To do so you will need your passport and other documents. This may include a hotel reservation, travel itinerary, business invitation, etc.

If you cannot satisfy the immigration officer, you will not be allowed into Ireland.

There are extra rules if you are travelling with children under 18.

You can read the full guidance here — Non-visa (Short visit)

In terms of procedures, I've taken the Holyhead-Dublin ferry twice in the last couple of years. Once there was no check at all. The other time there was an immigration officer doing basic ID check (I'm an Irish citizen so got asked nothing other than showing a passport, but presume if they ask you anything it would just be akin to what you'd get at an airport arrival desk).

  • Both the UK and Ireland recognise dual nationality. The UK is happy for their citizens to enter on foreign passports, and I think Ireland doesn't care either. UK - [travel.stackexchange.com/questions/7043]
    – CSM
    Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 15:28
  • @CSM yeah agree, they're only really looking into the citizenship of the passport that you're travelling on. Don't think dual citizenship will cause any issues — especially as UK & Canada are both visa-exempt countries for Ireland Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 15:57

No, it won't work. But the Canadian passport does.

The problem is that while the person has right of citizenship in the UK by ius sanguinis (right of birth, Latin wording), they don't have a UK passport or other official UK document supporting this claim.

The ferry company, as a private company, is not necessarily entitled/obligated to examine all possible alternate documentation to a regular passport, with increased scrutiny time. They may or may not allow the passenger on board.

I have checked on traveldoc.aero that no visa is required when a passenger with Canadian passport travels from UK to Ireland, like if they were going to Ireland from Canada (short stay entry permit)

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    "they are not UK citizen because they don't have a UK passport" Not having a country's passport does not mean you are not a citizen of the country. "Right-to doesn't mean it." If a person was born inside the UK to a parent who was a British citizen or settled in the UK, or born outside the UK to a parent who was a British citizen "otherwise than by descent", then that person was automatically and involuntarily a British citizen at birth. Not "right to", but already have it.
    – user102008
    Commented Apr 25, 2021 at 19:53
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    @usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Yes you are missing something. "Not recognized as a British Citizen" is not the same as "Not a British citizen". Having a passport does not make you a citizen, it merely gives you proof of that citizenship and some travel rights. I myself fit the OPs description exactly, and I am definitely a British citizen. Commented Apr 25, 2021 at 20:17
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    @usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ: A country doesn't necessarily need to know that you exist for you to be a citizen of that country. If that country's laws say that people meeting certain conditions are citizens, and you meet those conditions, then you are a citizen. (On the other hand, if the country's laws say that someone meeting certain conditions can apply or register to become citizens, then it is different. It all depends on what the law says about the person's case.)
    – user102008
    Commented Apr 25, 2021 at 21:28
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    @usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ: It may be that you are a citizen but have no documentation of it yet, in which case you may have trouble traveling to that country or obtaining certain benefits until you obtain documentation. But if there is a legal matter that hinged on whether you were already a citizen at a time in the past (e.g. whether you can be deported from the country, whether you can pass on citizenship to children, etc.), then evidence can be presented at that time to establish you were already a citizen.
    – user102008
    Commented Apr 25, 2021 at 21:33
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    Bit the matter here is the ferry company. Are they obligated, as a private commercial company, to accept any document from a foreign country to prove one's citizenship status? Commented Apr 25, 2021 at 21:37

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