After numerous delays, the UK is finally about to join the United States, Canada and various other countries in launching an Electronic Travel Authorisation programme.
This will force most people visiting the United Kingdom who do not require a visa to apply for entry permission in advance of travel.
The guinea pig is …. Qatar
For reasons unknown – given that Qatar only has around 300,000 passport holders – it has been chosen to pilot the scheme.
From 15th November 2023, any Qatari passport holders who want to visit the UK will need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation.
The application system does not open until 15th October so it isn’t clear at this point what sort of information will be required.
From 22nd February 2024, the list expands to:
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
Further countries will be added later.
Who is exempt from an ETA?
You will not need an ETA if you have:
- a British or Irish passport
- permission to live, work or study in the UK, or
- a visa to enter the UK
Confusingly, Irish residents (non passport holders) are only exempt if they enter the UK from Ireland, Isle of Man or the Channel Islands. They will need to apply if entering from any other country.
What will it cost and how long will it take?
The Government is promising to turn around applications in three working days.
All travellers, including babies, must have their own ETA.
The cost is £10 per person.
How long will an Electronic Travel Authority last?
Your ETA will last for two years.
However, it is linked to your passport, not to you personally. If you renew your passport, you will need to apply for a fresh ETA.
You can find out more on the ETA website here. Confusingly, the video on that page says that an ETA will be required by anyone in transit through the UK, but I assume this only applies to those who leave the airport. I’m sure British Airways would be up in arms if transit passengers at Heathrow had to pay £10 for the privilege. (EDIT: Apparently it IS true ….)