UK to Launch Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) in 2023

UK ETA will start operate in 2023, while the sytem is planned to be fully operational by 2025. Read on to find out more details on the new system.

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The UK's New Plan for Immigration will require visa-exempt travelers to obtain permission to travel already this year. 

The new Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) system is aimed at strengthening the UK border by carrying security checks on travelers before their arrival in the country. 

Thanks to the introduction of the pre-screening system, people will not be turned away or detained in the UK since all the travelers who may be recognized as posing a threat will be prevented from traveling to the UK. 

The system to be introduced in the UK is similar to the already existing schemes in a few countries, including Canada (ETA), the USA (ESTA), New Zealand (NZeTA), and Australia (eTA).

Moreover, the European Union also plans to finally launch a similar scheme called ETIAS in November 2023. 

Who will need an ETA to enter the UK?

The ETA will be mandatory for all visa-exempt countries, which do not need to apply for a visa to travel to the UK for a short-term period. 

A complete list of ETA-eligible countries is still to be determined, but it is expected that EU nationals and other European countries' citizens will be required to obtain ETA before going to the UK. 

The ETA will be issued for up to 6 months for business and tourism-related purposes. For different purposes, such as work or long-term residence in Britain, a traveler will need to obtain a relevant visa. 

The ETA requirement will not apply to individuals having valid UK immigration permission as well as nationals of Britain and Ireland. 

ETA scheme operation

The process of getting an ETA is expected to be a very straightforward and intuitive procedure that will require an applicant to complete an online application and cover the processing fee.

The more precise scheme's details and the ETA cost are not determined yet. 

Nevertheless, ETA applicants will need to have the following:

  • a valid national bio-data passport of an ETA-eligible country
  • travel details
  • an active email address
  • a valid means of online payment

A traveler will be asked to provide their personal, passport, and contact details and answer a few questions, thanks to which the UK Home Office will be able to assess if an individual is eligible to enter the UK. 

Filling out the entire application form should not take more than 15 minutes, while the processing time is estimated to take between 48-72 business hours. 

It is worth noting that UK ETA is not the same as a visa. It is an electronic authorization allowing an individual to board a carrier to travel to the UK. 

ETA introduction phases

The ETA introduction is planned to take place in three phases starting in early 2023. The said phases will consist of:

  • PHASE 1 (Q1 2023): a private beta testing phase
  • PHASE 2 (late Q1 to early Q3): the phase will include Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE
  • PHASE 3 (late Q2 onward): the final phase will include the rest of the world

The ETA is planned to be fully operational by 2025. The UK crossing borders will be transformed to improve security, and traveler's experience and reduce waiting time.

It is also expected that the system will help to manage the passenger flow and minimize the number of interventions at the border. 

Katarzyna Żyła

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