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Entry into the United Kingdom: Upcoming Changes

Last Updated on March 14, 2023 by Jessie Butchley

Entry into the United Kingdom: Upcoming Changes

In July 2022, the United Kingdom (UK) introduced the “New Plan for Immigration”. In this plan, the government outlined increased security of the country’s border and new methods of facilitating entry into the country. In addition, the plan outlines how the UK will digitize the immigration process and achieve a contactless border crossing plan by 2025.

One way the government aims to meet this goal is through the introduction of an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) system. Much like existing systems in the United States (ESTA), Canada (ETA), Australia (eTA), and New Zealand (NZeTA), the UK’s system will be used for more visibility in tracking travel and to maintain new secure border crossing protocols.

What do we know about the UK’s ETA?

According to the government announcement, the ETA will be a universal condition for all visa-exempt travelers seeking to enter the UK. ETA approval will grant visa-exempt travelers with single-entry travel authorization that will remain valid for a maximum stay of six months. Travelers entering the UK for short- or long-term work or business activities will still need to obtain work authorization or related permissions in addition to ETA approval.

According to the UK authorities, the ETA is intended to reduce security risks and allow more information to be gathered on travelers seeking entrance into the UK. In turn, the government will be able to proactively block the entry of individuals who pose a perceived risk.

Applicants for an ETA will be required to provide their biographic, biometric and contact details as well as answer a set of questions before approval can be granted. From there, the government will check the information against internal government systems and databases to determine whether the applicant is eligible to travel to the UK.

The government has yet to state a specific estimate for how long ETA approval will take, but the government advises that it doesn’t anticipate delays after submitting the initial application. Once implemented, ETA permissions will be checked in a document or digital format by travel officials prior to passengers departing for the UK. Liability charges and other penalties will be applied to carriers that do not ensure proper travel permission is obtained by passengers prior to departure.

Next Steps

The ETA scheme is targeted to become fully effective by 2024. In the meantime, other steps have been taken by the government to prepare for the rollout of the ETA. Electronic visa waivers (EVWs) will be made available to nationals of Qatar beginning 15 November 2023. From 22 February 2024, nationals of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Jordan will be permitted to apply for an EVW. The government is expected to add other countries to the scheme in the future.  EVW permissions grant eligible applicants single-entry travel permissions to the UK for up to six months. Applicants must apply for EVW permission at least 48 hours to three months prior to traveling to the UK for the purpose of tourism, business and study.

Beginning in 2023, EVW registration permissions will be made available under the ETA system. By the third and fourth quarters of 2023, the UK government anticipates introduction of the ETA scheme to all other visa-exempt travelers.

In a related development, beginning in November 2023, the European Union will introduce the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). The ETIAS is expected to become a mandatory pre-condition for all visa-exempt nationals from outside of the European Union (EU), including citizens of the UK, to enter any Schengen member state. Similarly, the government of the UK has announced that it is the country’s intention to require all European Economic Area and European Union citizens to obtain ETA permission prior to traveling to the UK.

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Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an attorney at one of the two U.S. Law Firms working with the Envoy Platform or another qualified professional. On non-U.S. immigration issues, consult an Envoy global immigration service provider or another qualified representative.