As travel evolves and new technologies emerge at a lightning-fast pace, so do borders.
In fact, many countries, including the United States of America, Australia, and Canada, have implemented electronic travel authorizations for foreign nationals who wish to enter — and now the United Kingdom is joining in as well.
The UK Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) is an upcoming concept for foreign citizens who can enter the UK without a visa.
By obtaining a UK ETA, travellers are granted permission to enter the country.
Those who are planning to visit Great Britain soon and have questions such as, “What is the UK ETA?”, “Do you need a visa for the UK from Denmark?”, and “How can I obtain an ETA?” should bookmark this article for reference.
What is the UK ETA?
The UK ETA is a recent project that was created by the Home Office.
The ETA will be available for all citizens who currently do not need a visa to enter the UK.
Those who do not fall under the non-visa national scheme are not eligible for the ETA and will need to obtain a regular visa.
The UK ETA works by having travelers apply for the electronic travel authorization before their trip.
The process is done over the internet and only takes a few minutes to go through the application.
Once the traveller is granted an ETA, they will be allowed to enter the country.
At its current stage, this travel document is valid for the purposes of tourism and business.
In the future, short-term studies and medical treatment may also be valid reasons for obtaining an ETA.
Last but certainly not least, the UK ETA scheme is expected to be put into place towards the end of 2024 and the beginning of 2025.
Who needs the UK ETA?
As mentioned, the Home Office intends to introduce the UK ETA for travelers who fall under the non-visa nationals scheme.
This includes all 26 countries in the European Union, as well as seven other European nations: Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, Switzerland, and Vatican City.
Likewise, 50+ other visa-exempt nations are allowed to apply for the UK ETA.
This list includes Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Paraguay, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States of America, among others.
It’s important to note that this list is not exhaustive and may change by the time the UK ETA is enacted.
The only travelers who are exempt from this rule are British and Irish citizens.
How to apply for the UK ETA
The process of obtaining an electronic travel authorization for the United Kingdom is quite simple.
Travellers can apply for the ETA entirely over the internet and it should only take about 15 minutes to go through all of the steps.
The application will ask basic questions such as the applicant’s full name, date of birth, nationality, and contact information.
There will also be a section for the passport data, including the serial number, date of issue, and expiration date.
It’s important to note that the traveller’s passport should be valid for at least six months from the date of entry, as this is one of the most important requirements set by the Home Office.
Finally, there will be a series of questions regarding the applicant’s medical history and criminal background.
Once the application is filled out, travelers will need to pay the processing fee in order to submit the form successfully.
The average processing time of a UK ETA is usually a few days, although it may take longer depending on various factors (i.e., high tourist season or an increased number of inquiries).
Travelling to the UK with an ETA
There are more than 40 ports of entry, including airports and seaports, that can be used to enter.
The most popular include Heathrow and Gatwick Airport in London, Manchester Airport, the Port of Dover; and Southampton Port.
Likewise, the UK ETA is a single-entry travel document that is valid for stays of up to six months.
Travellers who wish to stay longer (such as to seek employment, study, or relocate) should double-check with their local UK embassy for further information about the appropriate visa.
Although the exact details are still being worked on, it is rumoured that the UK ETA will be valid for two years.
This is deduced from the fact that the UK ETA was modelled after the USA ESTA, which has a similar expiration period.
Even though the UK ETA is still in the works, it is already expected to provide many benefits to both the United Kingdom and to visitors.
Namely, travellers can enjoy shorter queues, while the country benefits from safer borders and a more streamlined process of assessing visitors.