New Requirements to Enter UK Starting Soon

by SharonKurheg

Since January, 2009, nationals of 40 countries have had to apply for the United States’ Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA for short) before traveling here. Mandated in the years after 9/11, ESTA is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

However the U.S. wasn’t the first country to require an electronic travel authorization; the first one was Australia, in 1996. Other countries that require some form of pre-travel authorization include Canada (U.S. nationals are exempt), Cote d’Ivoire, South Korea, Sri Lanka and New Zealand, among others.

For the past half decade or so, U.S.-based and other travelers have heard about the upcoming ETIAS visa waiver. It’s a planned electronic authorization system of the European Union for visa-exempt visitors traveling to the European Union or Schengen Area, as well as Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania.

Originally announced in 2018, ETIAS has been delayed several times and is now scheduled to start in 2024.

However, ETIAS isn’t the only new electronic travel authorization system coming down the pike. A few years after ETIAS was announced, the United Kingdom issued a statement about its own program, ETA, which is scheduled to begin this November.

After a 51.9% vote in favor of Brexit, the U.K. famously withdrew from the European Union on January 31, 2020. Although still, of course, a part of Europe, it’s no longer a part of the E.U. Therefore, ETIAS has nothing to do with the U.K. (in fact, U.K. citizens will have to apply for ETIAS, the same as everyone else, when it goes “live”). So in 2022, the British government’s Home Office (their ministerial department responsible for immigration, security, and law and order) began working on ETA (Electronic Travel Authorisation).

From UK Parliament’s House of Commons Library: Electronic travel authorisations: what’s the ETA?

By the end of 2024, people who do not need a visa to enter the United Kingdom will need to have an electronic travel authorisation, or ETA, before they visit.

These ‘non-visa nationals’, including EU and US citizens, can currently travel to the UK without a visa if visiting for up to six months. The new system, introduced by the Home Office, will require visitors to apply and pay for the ETA before travel. As a result, some kind of advance permission to travel – either an ETA or a visa – will be mandatory for all travellers to the UK, except British and Irish citizens.

Similar schemes exist in other countries and the EU is setting up its own version.

The Government says the scheme will improve border security because it will have more information about non-visa visitors and more time to screen them. Advance screening will, according to the Home Office, reduce the number of people denied entry at the border (for example, if they have a criminal record) as they will not be permitted to travel in the first place.

Once ETA is live, potential visitors to the UK will apply online or through an app on their cell phone. The form will ask for a photograph, biographical and contact information, passport details, and answers to questions about criminal offenses and immigration history (they eventually want to include fingerprints as well, once that technology is available through an app).

How to apply

You’ll need to apply on the UK ETA app, or online on GOV.UK. You can apply on behalf of others.

Each traveler must get their own ETA, including children and babies.

You’ll usually get a decision within 3 working days, but you may get a quicker decision. That being said, it may take longer than 3 working days if they need to make further checks. People could be refused an ETA because of past convictions or if they’ve ever overstayed a visa.

The ETA itself won’t be a physical document. Instead, it’ll be a digital record linked to the person’s passport and confirmed by email. Carriers, such as airlines, will also be notified electronically that the person has permission to travel to the U.K.

An ETA will cost £10 (about $12.49) per applicant. Once you have it, your ETA will last for 2 years. If your passport expires in less than 2 years, you’ll need to get a new ETA.

Who will need an ETA?

The program is set to begin in mid-November. However, it’s going to begin slowly, on this time schedule:

If you’re a national of Qatar

You’ll need an ETA if you’re traveling to the UK on or after November 15, 2023. You’ll be able to apply from October 25th onward.

If you’re a national of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates

You’ll need an ETA if you’re traveling to the UK on or after February 22, 2024. You’ll be able to apply from February 1st onward.

If you’re a national of another country (including United States)

You do not need to apply for an ETA now. More nationalities will be added to the list at a later date.

A few groups of people will not need to apply for ETA before traveling to or through the UK:

Who will not need an ETA?

You will not need an ETA if you have either:

  • a British or Irish passport
  • permission to live, work or study in the UK
  • a visa to enter the UK

If you live in Ireland and you’re not an Irish citizen

You will not need an ETA if all of the following apply:

  • you’re legally a resident in Ireland
  • you do not need a visa to enter the UK
  • you’re entering the UK from Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man

After UK citizens having to get an ESTA before being vetted by the US, it’s not surprising that the UK (or those behind ETIAS, to be honest) are beginning their own respective programs. As long as you have nothing nefarious in your history, it sounds as if you’ll only be out a little time and a little money, and you’ll be approved.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


AngryFlier September 13, 2023 - 1:54 pm

I read (and see) a lot of confusion or misinformation regarding BREXIT. Yes, it absolutely removed the UK from the EU and that has had significant trade impacts. However, the UK was NEVER in the Schengen zone and thus UK subjects still had to clear immigration/customs before entering Schengen nations (as they do now). Brexit wouldn’t have changed this.

I see videos of Brits b**ching about Brexit making them wait for immigration to enter Spain or Italy, but theoretically they would have had to do this anyway.

SharonKurheg September 13, 2023 - 2:38 pm

OK. But the piece is about the upcoming ETA. The beginning bit was just to clarify how it wasn’t the same thing as ETIAS.

Chris September 13, 2023 - 10:55 pm

I don’t see why they require it if you’re only in transit through a UK airport. It will definitely make alternative non-UK airports more attractive

Steve September 14, 2023 - 9:54 am

This so true…I was thinking of the same.

Haim Cohen September 14, 2023 - 12:49 pm

Does it apply to transit passengers as well?

Bachir Skirej September 15, 2023 - 6:53 am

Besides the middle eastern oil and gas producing countries what are the possible other countries to be added to the list of ETA

SharonKurheg September 15, 2023 - 8:36 am

All countries that don’t require a visa.

Aspy Bhathena September 15, 2023 - 12:14 pm

Excellent. High time UK introduced it as well. Will also raise some money for the govt.


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