Following the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 receiving Royal Assent, the Home Office has introduced the Electronic Travel Authorisation (“ETA”) scheme which was provided for in the Act. This is a new requirement for non-visa nationals travelling to the UK, who must apply for and be granted an ETA before travelling. This is in line with the USA’s ESTA program and the forthcoming ETIAS for the European Union from mid-2025, as well as other similar systems around the world.
The ETA is being rolled out on a country-by-country basis, starting with Qatar since 25 October 2023 (for travel to the UK from 15 November 2023 onwards) and continuing with the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Bahrain from February 2024. The schedule for the rest of the world has not yet been published but is expected to be complete before the end of 2024.
The cohort of travellers to whom the ETA will apply is limited to those who are only visiting the UK and who are not required to apply for a visit visa first. It will not apply to anyone who needs a visa due to their nationality or purpose of travel (i.e., work or to join family), British or Irish nationals, or those lawfully resident in Ireland (evidence of their residence will be needed when travelling into Northern Ireland).
Although few have been able to apply for an ETA so far, it is supposedly a simple and straightforward process:
- There is an App, or it can be applied for via an online form. A family member, friend or representative can help with the application.
- Details of the individual, a photograph, personal information including criminal/ immigration history, and reason(s) for travel will be required.
- The Home Office will make a decision within around three working days. It is best to apply early.
- If approved, it will be a digital permission to travel (not to enter). If it is refused, the individual will need to apply for a visa instead.
- It will cost £10 to apply for an ETA.
- The ETA will last two years, for multiple trips during that time, and will be linked to the individual’s travel document – usually a passport. If the passport is updated, a new ETA will need to be applied for even if less than the two-year period.
It is expected that the ETA scheme will be fine-tuned as the remainder of it is rolled out globally and as feedback is generated from those making their applications. Those travelling to the UK to visit will need to factor in this additional step when booking their trip.
This article is not intended to be used as legal advice. Should any of these updates be relevant to you, please seek expert legal advice from a regulated immigration practitioner or contact the writer, Victoria Welsh, at firstname.lastname@example.org or via our Immigration Services page.