If you have plans to visit England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland in the future, your trip is about to get slightly more expensive and require a few extra hoops.
The United Kingdom announced in February that starting in 2024 visa-free travelers will need to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA), which will require all visitors (except British and Irish citizens) to obtain permission and pay a fee before entering the country (for Qatari nationals the program kicks in later this year). Recently, the U.K. government shared that the permit will cost 10£ (or about US$12.50 at the current exchange rate).
ETAs will be valid for multiple entries
According to a government fact sheet, the ETA “will permit multiple journeys and be valid for two years or until the holder’s passport expires—whichever is sooner,” and the cost of it is “competitive and comparable with similar international schemes by international partners.”
How long it will take to process an ETA
The U.K. estimates that applications (which will ask for basic personal info, travel details, passport data, email address, and some security information) will be processed within 48 to 72 hours and will be electronically linked to the passport travelers apply with. Visitors will be allowed to spend up to 180 days (6 months) in the U.K. and visit any part of the country once the ETA is obtained.
When the U.K. will begin requiring ETAs
The scheme will launch for Qatari nationals on October 25, 2023, and for citizens of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia on February 1, 2024. It is expected to be rolled out to the rest of the world by the end of 2024.
Why the U.K. is requiring ETAs
“The scheme will give the U.K. more control of our borders, allowing us to block threats from entering the U.K., whilst also providing individuals, and carriers, with more assurance at an earlier point in time about their ability to travel to the U.K.,” the government stated earlier this year.
It’s worth noting that the ETA isn’t a visa—it’s a digital permission to enter the U.K. The ETA is similar to the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) that will be required for travel into the European Schengen Zone starting in 2024. According to the government, it’s part of a plan to fully digitize the borders by 2025.
Michelle Baran contributed to this reporting.