The UK government has announced the launch of a new Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) for visa-free foreigners. Priti Patel, UK Home Secretary, stated that the new ETA system will provide the government with more accurate migration information.
The ETA system is expected to be in place by the end of 2024, according to the government. Although the exact ETA launch date is not yet known, all travellers (except for British and Irish citizens) will need permission to enter or transit the UK in the coming years.
The British government has highlighted the similarities between the UK ETA and systems in place in other countries, such as the United States ESTA. The EU will also launch its own digital visa waiver, ETIAS, in 2023.
I have been focused on taking back control of our immigration system through my New Plan for Immigration.Priti Patel, UK Home Secretary
The ETA system will work by screening visitors before they arrive in the UK. Travellers will provide basic personal details, passport data, and some security information by completing an online ETA application form.
Applications will be processed automatically with only complex decisions made by ETA officials. Most people will receive their approved UK ETA quickly. Visitors will be able to apply from home and should not be required to visit a UK Embassy.
The UK ETA is part of a wider permission to travel policy. This means that all foreign nationals will need to seek permission to enter the United Kingdom. Such permission may be in the form of a traditional visa or, for non-visa-nationals, an ETA.
The ETA is not a visa. Europeans and travellers from countries including the US and Canada will maintain their visa-free status but will need an ETA to cross the UK border. Further details such as how long the ETA UK will be valid for are yet to be announced. Nevertheless, given that it is based on the US ESTA scheme, it will likely be valid for at least 2 years and multiple trips to Great Britain. In most cases, visa-free visitors can stay in the UK for up to 6 months.
A border that is fit for the 21st century which allows travellers to get a visa and pass through the border easily, while maintaining national securityPriti Patel, UK Home Secretary
The government will launch ETA for Britain as part of efforts to improve UK border control. The ETA will provide more accurate information regarding the number of people travelling to the UK and the countries they arrive from.
Currently, figures are based on surveys carried out at ports of entry. However, this does not provide accurate figures. This was shown by the EU settlement scheme. Three million Europeans were expected to apply following Brexit, the actual number is now over 5 million proving current migrant data is incorrect.
Travellers must meet all the ETA UK requirements to travel without a visa. ETA will be for short visits to the UK for tourism, business, or transit purposes. To stay long-term or to work in the UK, a visa or other entry permit is required.
The UK is planning to implement “contactless” border crossings in UK airports from 2024. The system will allow some passengers to enter the country without using an electronic passport gate or speaking to a Border Force officer. A photo will have to be uploaded and submitted to the Home Office before travel.