Entry into the United Kingdom: Upcoming Changes

Last Updated on October 27, 2023

Entry into the United Kingdom: Upcoming Changes

The United Kingdom (UK) introduced the “New Plan for Immigration” in July 2022. 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 U.S. (ESTA), Canada (ETA), Australia (eTA), and New Zealand (NZeTA), the UK’s system will provide greater visibility in tracking travel into the country. Once fully implemented, the ETA scheme will become a mandatory condition for all visa-exempt travelers seeking to enter the UK.

What is ETA?

According to the government announcement, the ETA will be a universal condition for all visa-exempt travelers seeking to enter the UK for the purpose of tourism, business and study. ETA approval will grant visa-exempt travelers with single-entry travel authorization. Permissions 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 will reduce security risks and allow additional information collection. In turn, the government can proactively block the entry of individuals who pose a perceived risk.

Applicants for an ETA will need to provide their biographic, biometric and contact details and answer a set of questions prior to approval. 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, travel officials will review all physical or digital ETA permissions ETA permission prior to a passenger’s departure to the UK. Travelers will face liability charges and other penalties if passengers do not obtain proper travel permission before departure.

What Travelers Require ETA for the UK

The ETA scheme is targeted to become fully effective by 2024. In the meantime, the government has taken other steps to prepare for the rollout of the ETA. ETA permissions 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 can apply for ETA. The government will add additional 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 should apply for ETA permissions at least 48 hours to three months prior to traveling to the UK.

By the third and fourth quarters of 2023, the UK government anticipates the introduction of the ETA scheme to all other visa-exempt travelers.

Beginning in November 2023, the European Union will introduce the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). The ETIAS will become a mandatory pre-condition for all visa-exempt nationals from outside of the EU, including UK citizens. Similarly, the UK intends to require all European Economic Area and EU citizens to obtain ETA permissions.

How to Navigate ETA

Envoy Global assists employers in navigating ETA and the UK immigration process. We provide guidance on the requirements and benefits of the ETA system and help to assess employee eligibility. Envoy’s Global Account Managers will also be your go-to resource for proactively tracking expansion options under the system. Our platform will help your company and employees comply with all ETA requirements.

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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.