The Home Office has established a new scheme which aims to ensure that all those travelling to the UK have permission to do so in advance.
The intention is that Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) will be a requirement for individuals who do not require a visa the UK for short stays. It provides permission to travel to the UK which is linked directly to the applicant’s passport. An approved ETA will be issued electronically and is valid for multiple entries on either a basis of two years, or until the expiry of the passport used to make the application, if earlier. If refused, the applicant will need to make an entry clearance application to travel to the UK.
This ETA allows travel to the UK for up to 6 months for tourism, visiting family and friends, business or study. It will also allow Creative Workers to come to the UK for up to three months and allows individuals to transit through the UK.
The introduction of ETAs will be done in stages. Stage 1 is for nationals of Qatar who intend to travel to the UK on or after 15 November 2023. Stage 2 is for nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, who intend to travel to the UK on or after 22 February 2024. Although the Home Office has initially specified nationals of these countries, it seems that the aim is to make ETAs a requirement for individuals of all countries, including those from Europe and the US, by the end of 2024 as stated in this article.
The application will be made online using the UK ETA mobile app or the online application form, both of which are currently unavailable. The Home Office has stated that the standard processing time for ETA applications will be three working days. Information regarding the Home Office fee for this application, and the biometric enrolment process, have not been disclosed yet.
Further information on the validity requirements, suitability requirements and grounds for refusal regarding ETAs can be found from page 32 of the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules dated 9 March 2023. Once this scheme comes into force from 12 April 2023, all the rules will be set out in Appendix Electronic Travel Authorisation.