UK to Introduce Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) Scheme for Visa-Free Visitors

Explore the UK's upcoming Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme, set to streamline entry for international visitors. Find out who needs it, how to apply, and why it's part of the UK's border digitization plan.
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The United Kingdom’s Home Office is set to launch the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme by the end of 2023, marking a significant step in the country’s goal to fully digitise its borders by 2025. UK’s Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme will require visitors to apply for permission to enter the country online before their trip starts.

This article provides a comprehensive overview of the ETA, explaining the application process, eligibility, and its purpose.

Understanding ETA and Its Benefits

The Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) is a digital travel permit introduced by the UK for visitors from select countries. It serves as a prerequisite for entry and aims to modernize border control procedures, enhancing efficiency and security while simplifying the process for international travellers.

The ETA scheme is expected to have a number of benefits, including:

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  • Reduced queues at airports
  • Faster processing times for visitors
  • Increased security
  • Improved data sharing between the UK and other countries

Applying for an ETA to Enter the UK

The Application Process

Visitors from Europe, Australia, the United States, and Canada will soon be required to obtain an ETA before entering the UK. To apply for this authorization, travellers must complete an online application form. The government aims to streamline the process, enabling most applicants to use a mobile app for quick decision-making.

Requirements

To apply for an ETA, individuals will need:

  • A valid biometric passport from an eligible country.
  • Travel details.
  • An email address.
  • A credit or debit card for payment.
  • To answer a set of suitability questions.

A nominal fee of £10 (€11.66) will be charged for the application. Applicants are advised to apply at least a few days before their intended travel date, with approval typically granted within 72 hours.

Also Read: UK Temporary Work Visa: Check Eligibility, Process, Cost, and Other Details

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Phased Rollout of the ETA

Initial Availability

Starting from October 2023, visitors from Qatar will be the first group eligible to apply for the UK’s ETA. Subsequently, visitors from the Gulf Cooperation Council states and Jordan can apply from February 2024.

The rollout will continue throughout the year, with the ETA becoming a mandatory requirement for all visitors by the end of 2024.

Replacing the Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW)

Currently, nationals of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates can apply for a single-use Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) at a cost of £30 (€34.30), valid for up to six months.

The ETA scheme will entirely replace the EVW, offering a more cost-effective option with multi-entry validity.

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ETA vs. Visa: What You Need to Know

ETA as Entry Permission

While the ETA is not a visa, it grants permission to enter the UK. All visitors who do not currently require a visa to enter the UK, including citizens of the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe, will need to obtain an ETA, even for short stays.

Failure to do so could result in fines. Notably, UK and Irish passport holders are exempt from this requirement.

Validity Period

An ETA is typically valid for up to six months, or for two years if the traveller holds a valid UK visa. This means that travellers won’t need to reapply for permission if they visit the UK again within the ETA’s validity period.

The Purpose of the ETA Scheme

The introduction of the ETA is a crucial part of the UK’s broader plan to digitise its borders at airports by 2025. This digital transformation aims to reduce congestion at border control points, speeding up legitimate journeys to the UK.

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Passengers may no longer need to use electronic passport gates or interact with Border Force officers; instead, they can submit a photo of themselves to the Home Office before travelling.

This streamlined process may utilize facial recognition technology, allowing for “contactless corridors” for international travellers.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme is set to revolutionize the process of entering the UK for visitors from various countries, contributing to the UK’s goal of digitizing its borders and expediting the arrival process for legitimate travellers.

Stay informed and plan ahead to ensure a smooth entry into the UK under this new system.

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Manish Khandelwal
Manish Khandelwal

Manish Khandelwal, a travel-tech enthusiast with over a decade of experience in the travel industry. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Travelobiz.com, he's passionate about writing.

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