Quick Hits

  • The UK electronic travel authorisation (ETA) scheme is a new requirement for non-visa nationals who wish to visit the United Kingdom.
  • Effective 15 November 2023, Qatari nationals are required to have an ETA to travel to the United Kingdom.
  • Individuals who are denied an ETA may apply for a standard visitor visa, creative worker visa, or transit visa, depending on the specific reason for travelling.

The ETA is a lower-cost option that allows a non-visa national to transit through the United Kingdom and stay for up to six months as a visitor—or up to three months on the creative worker visa concession. Additionally, the ETA allows the visitor to travel to the United Kingdom multiple times within two years of the ETA being granted.

Nationals of the following countries will be included in the next contingent to require an ETA if they visit the United Kingdom from 22 February 2024, and will be able to apply for an ETA from 1 February 2024:

  • Bahrain
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Oman
  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Arab Emirates

The scheme will be rolled out worldwide throughout 2024 and is intended to be a requirement for all non-visa nationals by the end of the year, including nationals of European Union member countries and the United States. The ETA is part of the UK government’s plan to “transform and digitis[e]” the United Kingdom’s borders by 2025. According to the United Kingdom’s government website, the government hopes to create a “seamless customer experience in the future for the millions of legitimate visitors who come to the UK”.

How does one apply for an ETA to enter the United Kingdom?

The scheme can be accessed via an online application form that will grant permission to enter the United Kingdom. The majority of applicants will be able to apply using a mobile app whereby a decision should then be provided within three working days.

Applicants will be required to have a valid biometric passport from an eligible country; they will need to provide details of their intended travel, an email address, and a credit or debit card. Applicants will also need to answer a set of suitability questions, including questions on criminality. Applicants will need to pay a small fee of £10. Once applicants have successfully applied, their ETAs will be digitally linked to their passports.

What if an applicant is refused a UK ETA?

Applicants who are refused ETAs may apply for one of the following visas, depending on the specific reason for travelling:

  • Standard visitor visa
  • Creative worker visa
  • Transit visa

Ruhul K. Ayazi is of counsel in the London office of Ogletree Deakins.

Carrie-Ann Hosker is an immigration manager in the London office of Ogletree Deakins.

Ogletree Deakins’ London office will continue to monitor developments and will provide updates on the Cross-Border and Immigration blogs as additional information becomes available.

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