Prepare for the UK’s new
Electronic Travel Authorisation
(ETA) scheme

The UK’s Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme has now opened for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Jordanian nationals who are travelling to the UK from 22 February 2024.

This latest stage of the ETA’s implementation timeline follows the successful launch of the scheme for Qatari nationals, who have been able to benefit since October 2023.

The change will make travel to the UK smoother and cheaper for these passengers, as ETAs replace Electronic Visa Waivers (EVW) and remove the visa requirement for short stays to the UK for GCC and Jordanian nationals.

Nationals of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and Jordan can now make unlimited visits to the UK over a 2-year period, or until the holder’s passport expires – whichever is sooner, for just £10. Previously, Gulf nationals paid £30 through the Electronic Visa Waiver scheme and Jordanians paid £115 for a single-use visitor visa.

Home Secretary, James Cleverly, said: “The ETA will improve the experience of travelling to the UK for the thousands of visitors from the Gulf and Jordan, who represent our second largest tourism market and contribute billions to the UK economy. The scheme is a vital step on our path to cementing the UK’s position as a world leader in border innovation and security.”

The ETA is being rolled out in phases and will continue to expand to all eligible nationalities throughout 2024. Once fully implemented, the scheme will apply to visitors to the UK who do not need a visa for stays of less than six months, or who do not have a valid UK immigration status prior to travelling.

Nationals of the countries listed above should ensure they are aware of the application procedure for an ETA, as this is now an essential requirement to travel to the UK.

Why is the ETA scheme being introduced?

The ETA is part of the UK government’s plans to strengthen and digitise the UK border and immigration system.

An ETA is a digital permission to travel, which enables the government to perform robust security checks on every visitor before they travel to the UK. The scheme will allow advance passenger information to be submitted to the Home Office, who in response will confirm whether the traveller has permission to travel to the UK.

The scheme is in line with the approach many other countries have taken to border security and will help prevent the arrival of those who present a threat to the UK.

Who needs an ETA?

The ETA applies to non-visa nationals, including:

  • Infants and children
  • Tourists
  • Business or study visitors
  • Those transiting through the UK
  • T5 Creatives
  • EEA and Swiss nationals.

If you do not currently need a visa to travel to the UK, you will require an ETA in the future.

You do not need an ETA if:

  • You are a visa national (you will continue to require a visa for short stays)
  • You have permission to live, work or study in the UK
  • You hold a British or Irish passport
  • You are legally resident in Ireland and you do not require a visa for travel to the UK
  • You are exempt from immigration control.

How to apply for an ETA

The application process for an ETA is simple and fast, and most applicants will receive a response within 3 working days or even sooner.

The easiest way to apply for an ETA is through the ‘UK ETA app’. You can also search for ‘Apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation to come to the UK’ on GOV.UK if you do not have access to a smartphone.

To apply for an ETA, you will need to:

  • Pay a fee (it costs £10 for each person applying)
  • Provide contact and passport details
  • Provide a valid photo, complying with the rules for digital photos on GOV.UK
  • Answer a set of questions.

You should submit your application at least 3 days before you travel. If your application is successful, you will have permission to travel to the UK for two years or until your passport expires, whichever is sooner.

If your ETA application is refused, you will need to apply for a visa if you still wish to seek permission to come to the UK.

Support with UK immigration

Smith Stone Walters is keen to support your business in preparing for these changes. We recommend employers communicate these new travel requirements to their international business visitors, to ensure they are prepared for needing an ETA before they travel in the future.

For more information and support, please contact us today.

Share story
Back to top of page