The Home Office has outlined plans for the rollout of the UK’s Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme by 2025.
The scheme will require all visitors to the UK who do not need a visa for short stays to apply for an ETA in advance.
This will include travellers from Europe, as well as other nations such as the US and Australia – currently visitors from these destinations do not have to make any form of application to visit the UK.
British and Irish nationals will not need an ETA to travel to the UK, but – as is currently the case – “individuals arriving in the UK via Ireland, will still be subject to UK immigration requirements, including the need for visitors to have an ETA”.
Those legally resident in Ireland will not need an ETA when travelling to the UK from within the Common Travel Area.
The new scheme will be fully in place by the end of 2024, but ahead of this it will launch for visitors from Qatar in October this year, followed by those from Jordan and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states from February 2024.
ETA will replace the current Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) scheme which requires visitors to the UK from GCC states to pay for a single-use visit.
The Home Office said that the cost of applying for an ETA “will be in line with similar international schemes”, and will enable individuals to make multiple visits to the UK over a two-year validity period.
It added that the application process will be “quick, light touch and entirely digital with most visitors applying via a mobile app and receiving a swift decision on their application”.
Individuals will need to provide biometric details and “answer a set of suitability questions” as part of the application process, to help “prevent dangerous individuals, such as criminals, entering the UK”.
The announcement follows the recent news that the launch of the EU’s own travel authorisation scheme – ETIAS – has been postponed until 2024.
The system was initially intended to launch in early 2022 and then delayed until November 2023. The European Union has since updated the ETIAS website, stating that it will enter into force in 2024.
Announcing the plans Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said:
“Strengthening our border remains one of the Government’s top priorities. ETAs will enhance our border security by increasing our knowledge about those seeking to come to the UK and preventing the arrival of those who pose a threat.
“It will also improve travel for legitimate visitors, with those visiting from Gulf Cooperation Council states being among the first to benefit.”