Making Sense of the UK Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) Scheme

Border control for UK Electronic Travel Authorisation

The UK will require citizens of all countries with whom it has a visa waiver agreement to apply for a UK Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) before travelling to its borders. This means citizens from countries such as the United States of America, Canada, and even Grenada, who currently travel freely to the UK, must receive pre-travel authorisation once their countries are added to the scheme.

The ETA is expected to increase border security by allowing Immigration to do the needful checks on non-visa visitors. This potentially reduces the number of individuals denied entry at UK borders.  Countries will be incorporated into the scheme on a phased basis between November 2023 and December 2024. The first of these will be Qatar, whose citizens will require the ETA from November 15.

How will the UK ETA work?

Travellers intending to visit the UK will have to apply  for the ETA online, or via the UK ETA app, days before they travel.  ETAs can be completed on behalf of others and are required for everyone travelling in a family, including babies. Travellers must provide a current photo, biographical and passport details, and answer questions about their criminal and immigration history. Decisions about the ETA will be given by email to travellers approximately three days after their application – unless additional checks are required. It will carry a cost of £10 per application.

How long will the UK ETA be valid?

An ETA is valid for two years. However, because an ETA is tied to an individual’s passport, if the passport expires before the two year period the ETA will also expire. A new ETA will have to be obtained to allow travel on the new passport.

Does filing an ETA application guarantee entry into the UK?

Not everyone, who applies for an ETA will get approved for one. Previous criminal convictions could be used as grounds to deny an ETA application. Travellers, who receive a denial will have to apply for the relevant visa to enter the UK. This includes transit visas for those whose final destinations are not necessarily the UK.

What does the UK ETA scheme mean for Grenadians?

Grenada maintains a visa waiver agreement with the UK, as such its citizens are currently exempt from requiring a visa to travel to the UK. In light of this, Grenadians are considered non-visa visitors and can apply for an ETA. Like other non-visa visitors, Grenadians will have to apply via the app, or online platform, and await email confirmation before travelling to the UK.  An ETA will be required to board an airline bound for the UK. Individuals, who manage to arrive in the UK without the required ETA could face criminal charges upon arrival.

Who is exempt from applying for a UK ETA?

Holders of British and Irish passports, as well as citizens of countries, which require visas to enter the UK will not be required to apply for an ETA. Additionally, individuals who have been granted permission to live, study, or work in the UK are also exempt from applying for an ETA.

To date, the UK has only released the ETA start dates for Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. According to UK Visas and Immigration, other non-visa countries will be incorporated into the ETA scheme between February and December 2024.

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