Why most travellers will soon need a permit to enter the UK

Travelers traveling to the UK in the near future will soon face a very different entry process, with the island nation poised to roll out an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) scheme from the first quarter of this year.

Following a similar approach to the US’s ESTA and Canada’s eTA, the UK’s ETA will require visa-exempt travelers (except British and Irish citizens) to apply for a travel authorization before they travel, simply by completing a short online form. and payment of a fee.

The UK Home Secretary has previously described this ‘Leave to Enter’ scheme, introduced through the Nationalities and Borders Bill 2022, as making it “easier for our friends to come and contribute to the UK, but harder for those we don’t want to come. Here”.

The EU is also introducing its own version, known as ETIAS, later this year.

Although a departure from the current process, it’s actually quite simple.

How does the ETA work in the UK?

Before traveling, travelers from approved countries will need to fill out an online application form that includes various details such as contact details, biometric data and travel plans, in addition to some simple eligibility questions.

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The answers are then checked against a variety of security databases, and if the application is successful, the passenger should receive their estimated time of arrival within 48 to 72 hours.

Upon arrival, the border process remains unchanged, with passengers still required to queue at immigration. However, since travelers are already screened before travel, it is hoped that the new ETA will speed up the process significantly.

It is worth noting that the ETA is not a visa; It only authorizes people to get on a carrier and travel to the UK.

When does the UK ETA come into effect?

A gradual roll-out of the e-travel authorization scheme in the UK begins in the first quarter of 2023, with the Home Office claiming the scheme will be in full by the end of 2024.

The launch will take place according to the schedule below:

  • First release in Q1: Private beta testing phase
  • End of Q1 to beginning of Q2: Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia
  • Q2 Late onwards: Rest of the world
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Who can apply for a UK ETA?

The full details have not yet been revealed, but it is expected that the list of countries eligible for a British ETA will be in line with the country’s existing list of exemptions. This includes arrivals from countries in the European Union, along with Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

How to apply for a UK ETA

Once the ETA scheme is released to the general public, travelers will need to apply for an ETA by visiting the visa and immigration page of the official government website: Gov.uk

How much is an ETA in the UK?

The UK Home Office says full details of the scheme, including how much ETA costs, will be announced “in due course”. Similar programs around the world give us an idea of ​​what to expect:

  • Canada’s eTA is 7 Canadian dollars (7.50 Australian dollars)
  • The EU ETIAS will cost €7 (AU$11)
  • The US ESTA is US$21 (AU$29)
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How long is the ETA valid in the UK?

The UK ETA validity period is expected to be revealed soon. However, looking at other countries with similar training programs, it should be between two and three years.

What happens if I don’t have a UK ETA?

Passengers will need to provide proof of confirmed arrival time to their carrier prior to travel, in printed or digital form. The Ministry of the Interior says that it will alert the carriers about the condition of the passengers before the trip.

If a passenger arrives without an ETA, they may face a fine.

Does the ETA replace a visa?

No, the UK electronic travel authorization applies to short stays of up to six months for tourism and business purposes only and does not replace a visa.

Those visiting for other purposes, such as living or working in the UK, still need to apply for an appropriate visa.

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