No. 5 NAI DFA Berne Embassy Box 5

Memorandum by the Department of External Affairs on the League of Nations Passport Conference, with covering letter for Michael MacWhite, signed by Seán Murphy (for Joseph P. Walshe)
(L.N. 42/67)

Dublin, 28 April 1926

A Chara,

I am directed to send you herewith your Credentials as Saorstát Representative to the Passport Conference together with a short memorandum dealing with the items on the draft Agenda.

I am to inform you that the Minister wishes you to take a liberal view of all these questions. He is in favour of the abolition of all visas, but he appreciates that this may not be feasible owing to the Immigration Laws of certain countries.

The British Government are anxious that all the Commonwealth Representatives should have an informal meeting before the Conference assembles, and they have been informed that you will attend.

You will of course understand that the British and our passport systems are inter-dependent owing to the absence of a passport barrier between the two countries, and as a result it would be difficult for us to carry out any arrangement which is not accepted by the British.

As you are aware, there has been a strong difference of opinion over the description of the holders of Saorstát passports. The British insist that they must be described as 'British Subject' while the Saorstát Government has refused to accept this description. 'Citizen of the Irish Free State and of the British Commonwealth of Nations' is the form at present in use, but the British do not recognise passports on which the holder is so described; the problem is therefore still unsolved.

Le meas,
[signed] Seán O'Murchadha


A. Issue of passports

1. Type of passport. Present 'international' type in use in Saorstát (1920 Conference type) considered satisfactory and sufficiently safeguarded against fraud.

2. Issuing authorities. Passports are issued in Saorstát by the Passport Office on the recommendation of the police authorities in applicants' district. Present method of issue works satisfactorily and does not cause undue delay to applicants.

3. Duration of validity. Irish passports are now issued with an initial period of validity of five years instead of two, as formerly. On expiry of this initial period they may be renewed for a further period of from one to five years.

4. Extent of validity. The issue of passports valid for all foreign countries is hardly feasible at present owing to special requirements of certain Governments in connection with passports of aliens.

Other arguments in favour of retention of present system are that the endorsement requirement provides an opportunity for warning emigrants to certain foreign countries of possible difficulties in settlement, and that world wide validity would prevent any control over emigration or immigration through passport organisation.

5. Fees. The present fee for issue of passport with an initial period of five years validity is 7/6d. The entire cost of the passport when used for the full period of ten years is now 12/6d. as against 15/6d. formerly, and it is not considered that a further reduction can be made.

B. Visas

1. Transit visas

2. Exit visas

3. Entrance visas

Agreed that abolition of the above is desirable. Only entrance visas are given for the Irish Free State. There is no transit visa, and exit visas are not required.

Free State entrance visas are at present only given by the Irish Passport Control Office in New York. They are given to aliens sailing direct from the port of New York to An Saorstát and are valid for twelve months. The fee for the visa is reciprocal to fee charged by the Government of whom the alien is a subject to citizens of An Saorstát (for instance $10 to U.S.A. citizens). Should the person concerned intend subsequently to proceed to Great Britain he receives a British visa gratis from the British Consulate in New York. Conversely, if he gets a British visa to land in England first with the intention of subsequently going to the Free State he pays the British Consulate the fee and is given a Free State visa gratis.

Question of reduction of fee would be considered if reciprocal but would involve agreement with British Government in view of the fact that there is no passport barrier between An Saorstát and Great Britain.

Method of granting visas appears to work satisfactorily.


Note. Aliens who are nationals of the undermentioned countries do not require any visa to enter the Irish Free State:

    Belgium   Netherlands
  Denmark and Iceland   Norway
  France   Spain
  Italy   Sweden
  Liechtenstein   Switzerland.

Nationals of other countries than the above are admitted if they have a British visa unless they come to the Irish Free State direct from New York, in which case they must have obtained a Free State visa from the Irish Passport Control Office, 1 Broadway, New York.


C. Control at Frontiers

No observations.

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