Many frequent travellers will be familiar with the ESTA system; an online visa waiver that tourists are required to obtain before travelling to the US. The UK is set to introduce a similar scheme called the Electronic Traveller Authorisation (ETA) scheme.
ETAs are due to be phased in for non-visa nationals, that is for nationals of countries who do not ordinarily require a visa to enter the UK for up to six months as visitors.
Obtaining an ETA before travel to the UK will become mandatory for non-visa nationals coming to the UK:
- For up to six months for tourism, visiting family and friends, business or study
- For up to three months on the Creative Worker visa concession
- To transit through the UK – including if you’re not going through UK border control
Qatari nationals are the first cohort who will need to apply. ETAs will be required for Qataris travelling to the UK from 15 November 2023, with applications being opened online from 25 October 2023.
On 22 February 2024, ETAs will also be required for nationals of the following countries:
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
It is expected that more nationalities will be added to the scheme at a later date.
How much does it cost and for how long is an ETA valid?
The Home Office recently announced that the cost of applying for an ETA will be £10. The ETA will be valid for a two-year period and can be used to enter the UK on multiple occasions during its validity. As the ETA is linked to the traveller’s passport, a new ETA will be required within the two-year period if the holder obtains a new passport.
Who will not need an ETA?
British and Irish passport holders do not need to apply for an ETA. Similarly, those who hold valid visas for entry to the UK or who have permission to live, work or study in the UK will not need to obtain an ETA.
Those wishing to keep up to date on the ETA rollout can sign up for Home Office updates.