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The UK's New Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) Scheme

The Home Office has announced a new scheme for non-visa nationals entering the UK, due to be rolled out by the end of 2024. The Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) is similar to that adopted by the US and Canada. Read below to find out what it is and if you will need one.

If you are a non-visa national (a national of a country which doesn't need a visa to come to the UK), you can currently travel freely for up to 6 months, without worrying about any formal immigration application. With the introduction of the ETA Scheme, you will need to apply and pay for permission to travel to the UK in advance. This will make prior permission mandatory for all non-UK nationals, by way of an ETA or visa.

What is an ETA?

An ETA is prior digital authorisation by the Home Office permitting non-visa nationals entry to the UK. It is linked to your passport number and will be required in advance of your travel date.

Will I Need an ETA?

Eventually, all non-visa nationals will require an ETA before travelling to the UK. However, the Scheme will initially open to Qatari nationals from 15 November 2023, and later to nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia from 22 February 2024.

You will need an ETA to:

  • come to the UK for up to 6 months for tourism, visiting family and friends, business or study

  • come to the UK for up to 3 months on the Creative Worker visa concession

  • transit through the UK – including if you’re not going through UK border control

If you are a British national, have permission to live, work or study in the UK, or other entry clearance or permission to stay in the UK, you will not need an ETA.

How Can I Apply for an ETA?

If you require an ETA, you will be able to apply for it online or via the dedicated mobile application. The process will involve standard personal and immigration information, in addition to your photograph and criminal history. You must ensure that you enter all of your details correctly as errors could result in delays or a refusal. Each person will need their own ETA, including children. Each traveller's application must be completed separately, but it will be possible to apply on behalf of a friend or family member if they have given their permission for you to do so.

How much will an ETA cost?

Each ETA will cost £10.

How Long Will it Take to Get an ETA?

The process could take as little as a few minutes up to several days. The standard processing time is expected to be approximately 3 working days. It is important to ensure you apply as soon as possible to allow time for any potential delays.

My ETA was approved

You will receive a confirmation email that your ETA has been approved. Your ETA will be digitally linked to your passport. The airline and Border Force agents will have access to your ETA status when conducting their checks.

My ETA was refused

You will be notified by email that your ETA has been refused. This could be due to a previous breach of immigration rules, such as overstaying a visa, or because of past criminal convictions. The same justifications for refusal of entry clearance applications are applicable to ETA applications.

What Can I Do if My ETA is Refused?

If your ETA is refused, your application fee will not be refunded and you will not be able to challenge or appeal the decision. You will normally have to apply for a Visitor or Transit visa instead.

How Long Will My ETA be valid?

Your ETA will be valid for 2 years from the date it was granted or until the expiry date of your visa, whichever is sooner. Once you have your ETA you will not be required to reapply for future trips to the UK, unless you change your passport.

What Happens If I Forget to Apply for an ETA?

If you attempt to come to the UK without an ETA, your airline will likely not permit you to travel. You may also be denied entry at the border and required to return to your country of departure if you somehow managed to travel in the first place. It will be a criminal offence under the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 to attempt to enter the UK without an ETA.

If you are unsure whether the new Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme will apply to you, contact us for further information.


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