As we enter autumn 2023, the first stage of the UK’s new Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) Scheme is being rolled out to improve travel and strengthen the UK borders. This scheme is essentially for short term visitors (up to six months) of foreign countries entering the UK for tourism, business, study or medical treatment who do not already have a UK visa to live, work or study in the UK. It does not apply to British or Irish citizens.

How to apply?

The Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) will open from 25 October 2023 and will first apply to Qatar citizens travelling from 15 November 2023 who must apply online at GOV.UK or use the UK ETA app and pay an administrative fee. All applicants, including children, must have a current valid passport and provide details of their arrival and departure dates along with a UK address of where they will stay. In the event travel plans change, applicants will need to enter this information online and will need their EVW number and date of birth.

The online system is designed to be a simple application digitally linked to an individual’s passport, with the aim of getting a decision within three working days unless further checks are required. It is recommend that applicants apply between three months and one week before travel considering application processing times.

What next?

The ETA grants permission to enter the UK however it does not guarantee entry at the UK border so holders must still go through passport control on arrival to the UK. On grant of an ETA, it will be valid for multiple trips to the UK over a two year period or until the expiry of your passport, whichever is sooner. Holders can print their confirmation or present it on entry on an electronic devise such as a mobile phone or tablet.

Citizens of other countries do not need to apply for an ETA at present but the scheme will later be rolled out to citizens of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates from February 2024. There is currently no date for when all other visa-exempt nationalities should apply.

The UK’s ETA is part of the government plans to fully digitalise the UK border by 2025.

For further information or assistance please contact Tijen Ahmet, Legal Director in our Employment, Pensions & Immigration team.

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