The government’s number one priority is keeping the UK safe. To strengthen the security of our border and improve travel, the UK has launched an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme - an ETA is a digital permission to travel to the UK.
ETAs are being introduced as part of our transformation and digitisation of the UK border. They will enable a more efficient customer experience and cement the UK as a world leader in border security.
The ETA scheme is broadly for visitors who do not need a visa for short stays to the UK, or who do not already have a UK immigration status prior to travelling.
The ETA scheme is open to Qatari nationals, who now require an ETA to travel to the UK. Other nationalities do not need to apply yet.
An ETA costs £10, permits multiple journeys and is valid for two years or until the holder’s passport expires – whichever is sooner.
From 1 February 2024, the scheme will be introduced for nationals of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
In the future, the scheme will be implemented worldwide for visitors to the UK who do not currently need a visa for short stays, including European nationals.
How much will an ETA cost?
- An ETA costs £10.
- This cost is competitive and comparable with similar international schemes by international partners.
- As with all our fees, we will keep the cost of an ETA under review.
How do people apply for an ETA?
- The application process is simple and fast. Most applicants will receive a response within three working days, with many receiving a result sooner.
- The easiest way to apply for an ETA is through the ‘UK ETA app’. Individuals can also search for ‘Apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation to come to the UK’ on GOV.UK if they do not have access to a smartphone.
- To apply for an ETA, individuals need to:
- Pay a fee
- Provide contact and passport details
- Provide a valid photo, complying with our rules for digital photos on GOV.UK
- Answer a set of questions
How many visitors will this impact?
- The ETA scheme will broadly apply to visitors who do not need a visa for short stays and who do not have any other UK immigration status prior to travelling to the UK.
How will an ETA help UK border security?
- Those applying for an ETA will provide their biographic, biometric and contact details, and answer a short set of suitability questions. This will increase our knowledge about those seeking to come to the UK and prevent the arrival of those who present a threat.
What will happen if someone is refused an ETA?
- If an individual’s ETA application is refused they will need to apply for a visa if they wish to seek permission come to the UK.
How will the scheme work in the context of the Ireland-Northern Ireland border?
- British and Irish citizens will not require an ETA.
- The Common Travel Area (CTA) facilitates movement of people between the United Kingdom, the Crown Dependencies and Ireland.
- As is the case now, the UK will not operate routine immigration controls on journeys from within the Common Travel Area, with no immigration controls whatsoever on the Ireland-Northern Ireland land border.
- All individuals arriving in the UK, including those crossing the land border into Northern Ireland, will continue to need to enter in line with the UK’s immigration framework, including the need to obtain an ETA if required.
- People who are legally resident in Ireland and from a nationality that does not usually require a visa to visit the UK (e.g. EEA and US nationals), do not require an ETA when travelling to the UK from within the CTA, provided they hold acceptable evidence of their residence status. Full guidance on this can be found at GOV.UK. However, when such residents are travelling to the UK from outside of the CTA, they will require an ETA before travel.
- Once granted, an ETA will be valid for multiple journeys for up to two years, including those across the Ireland-Northern Ireland border whilst protecting the Common Travel Area from abuse.
Will Electronic Visa Waivers still be valid?
- ETAs will replace the Electronic Visa Waiver scheme (EVW) for nationals of Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The ETA is an improvement on the EVW costing £10 and permitting multiple journeys to the UK over two years or until the holder’s passport expires – whichever is sooner.
- Qatari visitors now need an ETA to travel to the UK.
- Visitors from Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates will need an ETA to travel to the UK from 22 February 2024, but can apply in advance from 1 February 2024. Before 22 February 2024, they will continue to require an EVW or visa to travel to the UK.
Are ETAs needed by those transiting through the UK? If so, why?
- Strengthening our border remains one of the government’s top priorities. The ETA scheme will give us a comprehensive understanding of those travelling to the UK and the ability to prevent the travel of those who pose a threat, including those who are transiting through UK airports.
- Requiring those transiting to obtain an ETA will stop transit being a future loophole for people to use to avoid needing an ETA. This is in line with the US ESTA scheme.