News & Insights

New Plan for Immigration – The Electronic Travel Authorisation Scheme

As part of the Government’s New Plan for Immigration, published July 2022, a new Permission to Travel scheme is due to commence this year that requires all individuals who wish to travel to the UK to acquire permission in advance of their travel.

The Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme aims to strengthen the border by allowing for necessary security checks on those travelling to the UK, identifying any potential threats, and giving the UK more control over our borders by managing passenger flow. This scheme forms part of the UK’s wider plan to digitise borders by 2025. The ETA will mean that any individuals who pose a threat will be prevented from travelling, as opposed to turning them away from the border or detaining them at a cost to the taxpayer. The ETA also provides more security for individuals travelling to the UK as they have greater assurance that they have the ability to travel. This new scheme is largely in line with many other schemes introduced internationally, such as those announced by the USA Canada (ETA), Australia (eTA) and New Zealand (NZeTA). The EU is set to launch a similar process in 2023 (ETIAS).

Applying for an ETA:

The ETA is for visa-exempt travellers (non-visa nationals). These are foreign citizens who can enter the UK for short stays without the need for a visa.

This means that individuals from the EU and other European countries as well as other visa-exempt countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore will need to apply for an ETA in order to travel to the UK for up to 6 months for tourism or business. To work or reside in the UK for a longer duration than this, the appropriate visa will need to be applied for. Those who are travelling to the UK for short-term studies or medical treatment are also expected to be able to obtain an ETA.

To apply, there will be an online application form which should take under 15 minutes to complete, and will require a fee to be paid, the amount of which is yet to be announced.

The documents required for a successful application are:

  • Valid biometric passport from an eligible country
  • Travel details
  • Valid email address
  • Credit or debit card

Most individuals will receive their ETA within 48 to 72 hours after submission.

When will the scheme be rolled out?

The ETA is expected to be rolled out in phases, beginning early 2023:

  • Phase 1: private beta testing phase
  • Phase 2: apply to nationals of Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia
  • Phase 3: ETA applied to the rest of the world

The Home Office believes that nearly 30 million applications will be processed each year through the program when the scheme is rolled out.

If you have any queries about how the new ETA scheme will apply to you and/or your business, or if you require our assistance for an immigration matter, please contact the immigration team at: [email protected].