US citizens will soon have to apply for permission before their United Kingdom trips and pay a small fee to enter as part of the country’s upcoming Electronic Travel Authorization scheme.
The ETA scheme is meant to secure the UK’s borders by giving them more accurate data on who is passing through, according to a UK official for the British Consulate General. The move is part of the UK’s plan to fully digitize its borders by 2025.
“The scheme will give the UK more control of our borders, allowing us to block threats from entering the UK, whilst also providing individuals, and carriers, with more assurance at an earlier point in time about their ability to travel to the UK,” according to the UK government website.
The scheme is set to be fully implemented by the end of 2023, the “permission to travel” requirement will apply to travelers visiting or transiting the UK without a visa or special immigration status – including visa-free nationalities like the United States. However, being granted permission to travel through the ETA is not a regular visa.
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Other countries already have an ETA process in place. In 2022, the US implemented the requirement for certain visitors, which costs them $21. The European Union is also looking to create an ETA.
Here’s what we know so far about the UK’s upcoming ETA scheme.
How will the ETA process work?
The new scheme shouldn’t be too much of a burden on your trip planning. The application process is expected to be quick and easy, according to officials.
The application process for the ETA can be done online in a few minutes. Travelers need to make sure they finish the process “a few days before (their) departure to the UK” To apply, people will need a valid passport, travel details, a valid email address and a credit or debit card for online payment.
The typical process time for approval will be between 48 and 72 hours. Any errors in your application could delay its processing time or result in a rejection.
Once approved, you’ll be able to stay in the UK for business or tourism reasons for up to six months. Short-term study and medical treatment are also valid purposes for an ETA.
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Who will the ETA apply to?
Non-visa nationals will need to apply for the ETA. The confirmed list of countries will be announced at a later time but it’s expected to include:
- The European Union
- Other European countries like Norway, Iceland, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Vatican City and Monaco
- Visa-exempt nations like Australia, Canada and the United States
How much will the ETA cost?
According to officials, the fee will be small but the exact cost has yet to be announced.
How long will the ETA be valid for? Do I have to apply for each trip?
The ETA will likely be valid for two years and allow multiple trips to the UK
What happens if I don’t apply for the ETA?
Permission will be confirmed prior to travel and carriers will be checking people’s forms, either a printed document or digitally. Showing up without permission to travel may result in a penalty charge.
The Nationality and Borders Bill will also make it a criminal offense if someone uses deception to try to get an ETA.