The new Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme and how it will affect non-visa nationals

The UK travel requirements are changing with the introduction of a new Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme. An ETA is for people who do not need a visa to come to the UK. It is a digital approval which grants permission to travel to the UK. The scheme is set to launch by the end of 2023. 

Who needs to apply for an ETA?

The ETA scheme will primarily affect third-country national passengers, i.e. visa-exempt travellers/non-visa nationals, visiting the UK or transiting the UK who do not currently need a visa for short stays (up to six months). 

Non-visa nationals will soon need to apply for an ETA to visit the UK for short stays for various reasons such as tourism, visiting family and friends, transit, business and short-term study. 

The ETA scheme does not apply to:

How do I apply for an ETA?

The ETA application will be entirely digital. Visitors will be able to apply on the UK ETA app or online via the GOV.UK website. To apply for an ETA, applicants will need documents such as:

Additionally, applicants will provide their biographic, biometric, contact and travel details, as well as answer a set of suitability questions. 

The Government will aim to process applications within 3 working days. If granted, an ETA will be valid for multiple journeys over 2 years, or until the passport used during the application process expires – whichever is sooner. Unsuccessful ETA applications cannot be appealed, however unsuccessful applicants can instead apply for a visa to enter the UK.

It is important to note that ETAs will be electronically linked to the passports used during the application process. It is therefore essential for visitors to travel with the passports used during the ETA application process. Furthermore, an ETA is not a visa. This means that while an ETA grants permission to travel to the UK, it does not grant permission to enter the country. Therefore, on arrival, visitors will still need to go through passport control at the border to enter the UK as per the current process.

When will the ETA be introduced?

The ETA scheme will launch on 25 October 2023 for Qatari nationals. Qatari nationals intending to travel to the UK on or after 15 November 2023 and onwards must apply for an ETA. 

On 22 February 2024, the scheme will open up to nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia who want to travel to the UK. 

The ETA scheme will be rolled out worldwide through 2024, with an ETA becoming a requirement for all non-visa nationals. 




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