UNITED KINGDOM – Electronic Travel Authorizations

March 17, 2023

UKVI published a new statement of changes on 9 March 2023 including a number of updates to the current immigration system. As part of these changes, UKVI “unveils plans for travel scheme to bolster the border” by way of the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme due to launch in October 2023 under “Appendix Electronic Travel Authorisation”.

An ETA is a new requirement for individuals who do not need a visa to come to the UK. If granted, an ETA provides permission to travel to the UK and will be electronically linked to the applicant’s passport.

Who is required to obtain an ETA prior to travel?

UKVI have published that the “ETA scheme will apply to third country national (i.e. not British or Irish) passengers visiting the UK or transiting the UK who do not currently need a visa for short stays, as well as those using the Creative Worker route for a short stay”.

Nationals of Qatar will require an ETA if travelling to the UK from 15 November 2023.

Other nationals of the countries set out below will require an ETA prior to traveling to the UK from 22 February 2024:

  • Bahrain
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Oman
  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Arab Emirates

It is anticipated that further countries will be added to the scheme in due course. UKVI have stated that they intend for the ETA scheme to apply worldwide for visitors, including those visiting from Europe “by the end of 2024”.

Who will not require an ETA?

An ETA is not required for those who are British, Irish passport holders, or those who have existing permission to live, work or study in the UK or hold a visa to enter the UK.

Those that are legally resident in Ireland and do not require a visa to visit the UK, will not need to obtain an ETA if they are travelling from one of the below:

  • Ireland
  • Guernsey
  • Jersey
  • Isle of Man

What will ETA holders be permitted to do in the UK?

ETA holders will be permitted to:

  • Travel to the UK for up to 6 months for tourism, visiting friends/family, on business or study.
  • Travel to the UK for up to 3 months via the Creative Worker visa concession.
  • Transit through the UK.

How do I obtain an ETA?

UKVI have confirmed that an ETA can be obtained by making an application via the UK ETA app or online via the GOV.UK website. Applicants will be asked to provide biometric details.

A decision is sent via email confirmation within 3 working days and the ETA linked electronically to the passport used to make the application. Travellers are advised to travel to the UK using the same passport linked to the ETA.

What is the duration of an ETA and Costs?

An ETA is stated to be valid for a period of 2 years. It will be multiple entry. Those who are eligible to use the ePassport gate will still be able to do so, alternatively at arrival, the individual will need to see a Border Force officer to enter the UK.

Interestingly, UKVI have confirmed that if the ETA holder obtains a new passport in less than 2 years, they must apply to obtain a new ETA.

Whilst a specific fee has not yet been announced, it has been stated by UKVI that the “cost of an ETA will be in line with similar international schemes, and individuals can make multiple visits to the UK over a 2-year validity period.”

What happens if I am refused an ETA?

Alternatives to an ETA would be to:

  1. Apply for a standard visitor visa
  2. Apply for a transit visa
  3. Apply for a Temporary Work – Creative Worker visa

If you have any compliance queries on the above or which are more nuanced please contact us directly on [email protected] For general advice and information on immigration and business travel to the UK, please contact us.

This immigration update is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal or scenario-specific advice. Furthermore, it is important to note that immigration announcements are subject to sudden and unexpected changes. Readers are encouraged to reach out to Newland Chase for any case- or company-specific assessments.