Travelers always need to stay up to date on regulations that could affect their future travel plans. One popular destination, the United Kingdom, is beginning the process of fully digitizing its international border. As a part of this process, visitors to the U.K. will soon be required to apply for permission to enter the country through a system known as Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA). How might this impact your future plans to visit Britain?
What is an Electronic Travel Authorisation?
The ETA will be a system that functions a lot like the United States’ own Electronic System for Travel Authorization. It does not take the place of a visa – instead, it is a formal procedure for requesting authorization to cross into the country prior to travel. Travelers pay a small fee as part of this process. No one knows yet how much it will cost, but the EU’s system, which is quite similar to what the U.K. is planning, costs 7 Euros – the United States’ ESTA costs $21. Once permission is granted, visitors will be able to stay in the UK for six months during the time period that the ETA is valid – speculation is that it will be valid for two years.
Who Needs to Apply?
While the United States currently has a visa-free agreement with the United Kingdom for travel, all Americans without a visa will need to apply for an ETA prior to their travel dates. Anyone with a visa, a British or Irish passport, or permission to live, work, or study in the UK will be exempt.
How Does the Process Work?
Visitors to the United Kingdom will need to go online to fill out the ETA application. Currently, it is expected that it will take around 72 hours for the process to finish, so expect to log in and apply around a week prior to your departure date. Have your passport handy, and be ready to include an email address, details of your travel, and a valid credit or debit card to pay the ETA application fee.
When Will ETAs Be Required?
Currently it is unknown when Americans will be required to get an ETA. However, the system is rolling out for nationals in other parts of the world in November 2023. We expect the United States to be added to the list by the end of this year or beginning of next year at the earliest. Future travelers to the U.K. can find out more information on the government website here.
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