UK to start rolling out its Electronic Travel Authorization program from January 2023, Tom Marsom


If you have ever traveled to the United States as a visitor, you may be familiar with ESTAs. ESTA is a US government program that allows you to complete an online form a few days before travel and pay a fee to confirm that you can enter the US without a visa (known as a “visa waiver”) . It is designed to expedite border entry.

You may also know that feeling of dread approaching the US border when you realize you forgot to apply for your ESTA or it just expired.

Good news, then, for people who love red tape and are concerned: the UK and the EU plan to introduce similar programs in 2023.

The UK will start rolling out Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) starting January 2023 on a limited trial basis with full operations expected by Fall 2023.

The EU will also set up a European travel information and authorization system (ETIAS) of November 2023.

Neither ETA nor ETIAS is a visa. This is a travel authorization designed to strengthen security checks for travelers traveling without a visa to the UK or EU.

Employers should ensure that their employees have completed their applications before undertaking business travel.

Although exact details have yet to be announced, the UK and EU have outlined their plans.

British ETA

Who should apply?

ETA will be required for all visa-free nationals visiting the UK.

Visa-free nationals refer to citizens of countries who do not need a visa to visit the UK and can enter on their own on their passport – for example, EEA citizens, USA, Canada, UK. Australia, New Zealand, etc.

Citizens of countries that require visas (“Visa Nationals”) to visit the UK will not need an ETA as they have already completed an application – e.g. South Africa, China, Russia, India, etc.

Republic of Ireland passport holders will be exempt as well as those of any nationality who hold a residence permit for the UK (e.g. skilled workers, students, family members, those with ILR, etc.).

When to apply?

The application must be submitted before traveling to visit the UK.

The form is online and asks some basic personal questions and travel information. This should take less than ten minutes and a decision will be made within 48-72 hours.

The cost of ETA has not yet been announced, but it will be competitive (ESTA is $20 and ETIAS will be €7 per application) and significantly lower than the Home Office visa fee.

Validity

Although not confirmed, the ETA is expected to be ESTA and ETIAS compliant and each successful application will provide travel authorization for 2-3 years. This means you don’t have to apply for the ETA per trip to the UK, which is a welcome relief.

EU ETIAS

Who should apply?

ETIAS will be required for all visa-free nationals visiting the Schengen area (note that not all EU countries are in the Schengen area).

Visa-free nationals refer to citizens of countries that do not need a visa to visit the Schengen area and can enter on their own on their passport – for example, UK citizens, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

Citizens of countries that require visas (“visa nationals”) to visit the EU will not need ETIAS because they have already completed an application – for example, South Africa, China, Russia, India, etc..

Holders of residence permits from any Schengen country are exempt regardless of nationality.

When to apply?

The application must be submitted before traveling to visit the UK.

The form is online and asks some basic personal questions and travel information. This should take less than ten minutes and a decision will be made within 96 hours.

Passports must be valid for at least six months from the start of the trip.

ETIAS will be €7 per person aged 18 to 70.

Validity

Although not confirmed, ETIAS is expected to be ESTA and ETA compliant and each successful application will provide travel authorization for 2-3 years.

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