Today, 9 March 2023, the Home Office and the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP have officially announced that Qatari nationals will be the first to benefit from the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) scheme that the UK will launch in seven months.
From October 2023, people from Qatar who want to travel to the UK will be able to apply for an ETA through a mobile app or on the official website of the UK government.
The ETA will be mandatory for Qatari visitors from 15 November 2023, and for nationals of Bahrain, Oman, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates from 22 February 2024.
Once obtained, the permission will be valid for 2 years. During that time, its holders will be able to enter the UK multiple times, for up to 6 months for tourism, visiting family and friends, business, or study purposes, and for up to 3 months on the Creative Worker visa concession. Travelers will also need an ETA if they will transit through the UK in the context of a trip to another destination.
The application process is intended to be quick. It will consist of providing biometric information and answering a set of suitability questions. And most applicants will receive a decision in 3 working days —unless further checks are needed. After a positive decision, the ETA will be electronically linked to the successful applicant’s passport.
As for the costs of the ETA application, the authorities didn’t specify a number, but they stated that fees would be in line with “similar international schemes”.
The goal of ETA is to allow the UK government to perform pre-travel checks on individuals who do not need a visa to travel to the UK, such as people from the GCC countries.
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said: “Strengthening our border remains one of the Government’s top priorities. ETAs will enhance our border security by increasing our knowledge about those seeking to come to the UK and preventing the arrival of those who pose a threat.It will also improve travel for legitimate visitors, with those visiting from Gulf Cooperation Council states being among the first to benefit”.
Other visa-exempt countries are expected to be added to the scheme in the near future, starting from 2024. The UK government wants ETA to become a travel requirement for all the countries in the world that do not need a visa to enter the UK, including other European countries, Australia, and the United States of America.
Only British and Irish nationals will be excluded from the ETA requirement. Exemptions will extend to UK visa holders or people with a valid permission to live, work, or study in the UK, as well as residents of Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey, and the Isle of Man.
When its launch, ETA will be supplanting the current Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) scheme, which involves higher costs for visitors from GCC countries as the beneficiaries of the EVW scheme can’t use this permission to enter the UK more than once.