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The new Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme

The Home Office has announced a new Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme for visitors to the UK, which will start to come into effect later this year and will come in stages. The scheme will, it appears, be similar to the American ESTA scheme, which some readers may be familiar with. 

Those who want to come to the UK as visitors but who do not currently require any visa (ie non-visa nationals) will in due course need to obtain an ETA before they travel. This will be, so the Home Office tells us, a very simple online application that should be processed in three working days and will cost £10. It will last for two years (or until the passport expiry date if that come sooner) and it will permit multiple entry to the UK over that period. 

The scheme only applies to visitors: those coming to the UK in other categories will only need to apply for visas as normal.

Irish citizens will no doubt be pleased to know that they will not need an ETA to come to the UK. And come to that no doubt British citizens will be pleased to know that they do not need it either, if they come to or return the UK. Well, that’s a relief.

Nationals of those Arabic countries who are currently able to apply for an Electronic Visa Waiver instead of a visitor visa will eventually find that the EVW is replaced by the ETA, which will be cheaper and, as it permits multiple entry, better. 

The Home Office says that the ETA is being introduced to improve the security of the border. They also indicate the uncomfortable but surely logical fact that the application could be refused, which would presumably present rather a problem for the unfortunate applicant. 

On this subject we wonder if, in the event of a refusal, the applicant will be informed of the reasons for the refusal. Our experience of the American ESTA is that this is not necessarily the case, and of course it is more difficult to address a refusal decision if you do not know the reasons for it. 

Anyway, we will discover more about the scheme as time goes by and, in the meantime, if you have any issues about not being admitted to the UK we at GSN Immigration can do our best to advise you. 


Oliver Westmoreland

Senior Immigration Lawyer