Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) Scheme Factsheet – November 2023

21 Nov 2023, 16 mins ago

The safety of the United Kingdom is a top priority for the administration. The UK has introduced the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) programme to enhance travel and strengthen border security. An ETA is a digital authorisation to enter the UK.

ETAs will establish the UK as a global leader in border security and make it possible for customers to have a more effective experience. The ETA programme is primarily for travellers who do not require a visa for brief visits to the UK, or who do not hold a form of UK immigration status at the time of travel.

Qatari nationals can now participate in the ETA scheme and will need an ETA in order to travel to the UK. Other nationalities are not required to apply at this time.

An ETA is available for £10, allows for several trips, and is good for two years or until the holder’s passport expires, whichever comes first.

The programme will be available to citizens of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan starting on February 1, 2024.

The programme will eventually be made available to all tourists, including citizens of Europe, travelling to the UK who do not now require a visa for brief visits.

Here are some general features and aspects commonly associated with Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) schemes:

  1. Online Application:
    • Travellers typically need to apply for an ETA through the ‘UK ETA app’ or search for ‘Apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation to come to the UK’ on gov.uk.
  2. Eligibility:
    • The requirement for an ETA often depends on the traveller’s nationality and the purpose of their visit. Not all countries implement ETA systems, and eligibility criteria may vary.
  3. Information Needed:
    • Applicants usually need to provide basic personal information, passport details, a photo, travel itinerary and other relevant details during the online application process.
  4. Processing Time:
    • The processing time for an ETA application can vary. In some cases it is instant, while in others it might take three working days. It is advisable to apply well in advance of the planned travel date.
  5. Authorisation Status:
    • Applicants typically receive an electronic confirmation of their ETA status. This confirmation is linked to their passport, and immigration authorities can verify it electronically.
  6. Validity Period:
    • An ETA is usually valid for a specific period, often corresponding to the intended duration of the visit. Some ETAs are single-entry, whilst others may allow multiple entries during the validity period.
  7. Purpose of Visit:
    • ETAs are often categorised on the basis of the purpose of the visit, such as tourism, business or transit. The conditions and requirements may vary accordingly.
  8. Border Control Check:
    • Upon arrival, border control officers can verify the traveller’s ETA electronically, ensuring that the information matches their records.

How will the plan operate with regard to the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland?   

Citizens of the United Kingdom and Ireland will not need an ETA. 

People can travel more easily between the UK, the Crown Dependencies and Ireland thanks to the Common Travel Area (CTA). 

As of right now, there are no regular immigration controls in place for travel from the Common Travel Area, and there are none at all on the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Everyone entering the UK will still have to follow the UK’s immigration laws, which include obtaining an ETA if necessary, even if they are entering across the land border into Northern Ireland. 

When entering the UK from within the CTA, those who are lawfully residing in Ireland and belong to a nationality that typically does not require a visa (such as US and EEA citizens) are exempt from the need for an ETA, as long as they can produce valid documentation proving their residency status. Nevertheless, these citizens will need an ETA before departure if they are coming to the UK from a location outside of the CTA.

When approved, an ETA can be used for several trips for a maximum of two years, including crossing the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, so long as it keeps the Common Travel Area safe from misuse.

Will Visa Waivers made electronically remain valid?

ETAs will take the role of the Electronic Visa Waiver programme (EVW) for citizens of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The ETA is an upgrade from the £10 EVW and allows for repeated visits to the UK over a period of two years, or until the passport holder’s expiration, whichever comes first.

To travel to the UK, tourists from Qatar must now have an ETA. 

Travel to the UK from 22 February 2024 will require an ETA for visitors from Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates; however, they can apply ahead of time, starting on 1 February 2024. For travel to the UK, they will still need an EVW or visa before 22 February 2024. 

Are ETAs needed by those transiting through the UK? If so, why?

The ETA scheme will give a comprehensive understanding of those travelling to the UK and the ability to prevent the travel of those who pose a threat, including those who are transiting through UK airports. Requiring those transiting to obtain an ETA will stop transit being a future loophole for people to use to avoid needing an ETA. This is in line with the US ESTA scheme.

How Gherson can assist

Gherson’s Immigration Team are highly experienced in advising on UK visa matters. If you have any questions arising from this blog, please do not hesitate to contact us for advice, send us an e-mail, or, alternatively, follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram, or LinkedIn to stay-up-to-date.

The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please do not hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.

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