United Kingdom: Electronic Travel Authorisation System Open for Qatari
Published: 25 October 2023
The UK government’s Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme commenced operation today. It currently only applies to Qatari nationals, but will be incrementally expanded to other nationalities throughout 2024 in phases.
A closer look
- ETA required for visa-free travelers. Under the ETA system, all visa-free nationals (who are only allowed to remain in the United Kingdom up to six months per visit) will need to obtain digital permission to travel or transit through the country. Creative Workers coming to the United Kingdom for three months or less and relying on the Creative Worker Visa concession will also need to apply.
- Incremental expansion. From today, Qatari nationals can apply for an ETA – which will be necessary for travel or transit through the United Kingdom for such nationals from November 15, 2023. The scheme is set to incrementally expand to other nationalities throughout 2024.
- Application process. Applications can be made online or via the ETA app, with applicants required to provide basic personal details, passport data, and a photograph. The application fee is GBP 10.
- Validity. ETAs are valid for two years (unless the applicant’s passport expires sooner) and allow multiple trips to the United Kingdom. The ETA allows visa-free nationals to come to the United Kingdom for the purposes of tourism, business or short studies for up to six months (each visit). The granted permission lasts for two years.
- Exceptions. ETA requirements will not apply to Irish nationals; nor will they apply to non-Irish nationals lawfully residing in Ireland who are traveling to the United Kingdom from elsewhere in the Common Travel Area. Foreign nationals who have, or require, a visa (or equivalent permission) for entry into the United Kingdom will not be subject to ETA requirements.
- Additional planning and cost. Travelers, employees and employers will need to account for this additional procedural step and cost when making plans for travel or transit through the United Kingdom. ETAs can potentially take up to three days to process, and there is no appeal mechanism if an application is refused (necessitating either a new ETA application or a separate visa application).
- Monitoring of ETA validity. Travelers, employees and employers will need to track the continued validity of their, or their employees’, ETAs.
- Digitalization efforts. The ETA is part of broader efforts by the UK government to make the country’s immigration system fully digitalized by 2025.
- Information, monitoring and security. The ETA system is intended to provide more accurate information regarding the number of people travelling to the United Kingdom and where they are travelling from, in turn improving border security.
- Further expansion. From February 22, 2024, foreign nationals from Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will also require an ETA to travel to the United Kingdom (which they will be able to apply for from February 1, 2024). The ETA scheme will then be incrementally expanded to other nationalities across 2024.
- ETIAS/EES. The commencement dates for the European Union’s similar digital entry-monitoring systems – the Entry/Exit System (EES) and the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) – have both been postponed, with EES now set for Q4 2024 and ETIAS for Q5 2025.