The UK conservative party have announced their intention to introduce a new visa policy for EU citizens planning to travel to Britain after Brexit. Current UK Home Secretary Priti Patel confirmed plans to introduce an electronic travel authorisation system which will require EU nationals to obtain a UK electronic visa waiver before visiting the country.
Citizens of EU countries are not currently required to apply for any of the visa types for the UK, nor do they require prior travel authorisation. It is currently possible to enter the United Kingdom using only a national ID issued by a European Union country.
However, if the proposed electronic visa waiver system is implemented, it is expected to be mandatory for EU citizens to obtain an online travel authorisation for the UK in advance, using a valid EU passport.
The UK electronic travel authorisation for EU nationals
Home Secretary Patel has said that the decision to restrict EU free movement after Brexit and introduce a UK visa waiver for EU nationals is part of the move to “take back control” of Britain’s borders following the result of the Brexit referendum.
The proposed introduction of the UK EVW is just one part of a 5-point plan outlined by Ms Patel and current UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to secure UK borders after Brexit.
Other proposed measures include plans to count visitors coming into and out of the UK and making it a mandatory requirement for EU citizens to travel with a valid passport, rather than their national identity card.
Patel is also hoping to gain new powers to stop EU criminals attempting to enter the UK at the border after Brexit, complaining that under current European Union law “previous criminal convictions do not in themselves count as a reason to deny entry to, or deport someone.”
She hopes to be able to deny entry to serious criminals from the EU by introducing “automated and accurate entrance and exit checks with all visitors required to have biometric passports.”
The new visa waiver system will help in this regard, as all those who register for the proposed travel authorisation will be required to answer a series of security questions and will be pre-screened before being allowed to enter the United Kingdom.
Applying for the UK Visa Waiver from Europe
The online UK visa waiver system for European Union nationals will be similar to other electronic travel authorisations around the world, such as the US ESTA visa waiver program, and the ETA for New Zealand, which was introduced earlier this year.
Like those existing electronic systems, the UK EVW from Europe is expected to be a multiple-entry travel authorisation which will allow holders frequent return visits to the United Kingdom within a certain time frame.
Once implemented, EU nationals will be required to complete the UK electronic visa waiver application form with personal, passport, and travel details to receive an approved travel authorisation via email.
In addition to EU citizens in the UK after Brexit, the UK EVW registration is also expected to become mandatory for nationals of British Commonwealth countries. The countries in the Commonwealth are as follows:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
- Republic of Cyprus
- Sierra Leone
- Solomon Islands
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
- St Christopher and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the
- The Bahamas
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Republic of Tanzania
Criticism of the UK EVW for EU countries
The plans to introduce a travel authorisation for European citizens has not been met with universal approval within the UK government, especially among those dismayed by changes occurring after Brexit.
Ex-shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has cast doubt on the claim that the Brexit split will strengthen British borders, pointing out the fact that the UK will lose access to key European Union security systems.
If the United Kingdom does leave the European Union without an agreement, UK law enforcement may no longer be able to use resources such as the European Arrest Warrant and the Europe-wide Schengen Information System (SIS II), potentially limiting the ability to keep track of information on criminals.
The ex-leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn also expressed doubt that free movement between the UK and Europe could ever totally come to an end because of the strong “relationship between families, between Britain and Europe”.
Nevertheless, the European Union has already advanced plans to introduce its own electronic visa waiver, ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System).
Expected to be introduced by the end of 2021, the ETIAS system will require over 60 nationalities, including the UK, to register for an electronic travel authorisation to travel to any of the 26 countries in the Schengen passport-free zone.