UK opens electronic travel authorisation scheme

The UK’s electronic travel authorisation (ETA) scheme has officially opened for Qatari nationals who, from today, need one to travel to the UK. 

Last year, the UK welcomed almost 800,000 visitors from the Gulf, 45,000 of whom came from Qatar, with this set to increase over the next few years.  

Nationals of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Jordan will need an ETA if they’re visiting the UK from 22 February 2024, and can apply for their ETA from 1 February 2024. 

ETAs are replacing Electronic Visa Waivers (EVW) which the majority of Gulf nationals currently apply for. An ETA is an improvement from the EVW, being a third of the price at £10 and allowing unlimited visits to the UK over two years, or until the holder’s passport expires – whichever is sooner. The move to the ETA scheme means that the visa requirement will be removed for short stays to the UK for nationals from the Gulf and Jordan. 

When applying for an ETA, applicants need to provide biographic and biometric information, and answer questions on suitability and criminality. The application process ensures that those who pose a danger to the UK’s security, such as criminals, are not allowed to travel here. Once individuals have successfully applied, their ETA is digitally linked to their passport.  

While the standard processing time for an application is 3 working days, the majority of applications so far have been decided within hours.  

To ensure the scheme is implemented smoothly, the UK government is working closely with global airline, maritime and rail carriers, who are crucial to the successful delivery of the scheme. 

In the future, the scheme will apply worldwide to those who do not currently need a visa to visit or transit through the UK or who do not hold a UK immigration status, including nationals from Europe and America.

Other nationalities do not need to apply for an ETA yet and timings for when the scheme opens for them will be confirmed in due course.

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