The UK government is in the process of developing an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), which will be similar in many ways to the currently available Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW). The new eTA for the UK is set to be available online, can be processed in a relatively short time and will be transmitted electronically.

However, there will be key differences between these two forms of travel entry documents. This must be considered before an application. To avoid confusion, this page explains the main requirements of a UK eTA. It studies in detail:

  1. Who can apply for an eTA once it has launched
  2. The process of obtaining an eTA online
  3. The validity and usability of a UK eTA

Who will be able to use an eTA?

Government officials have indicated that the new UK Electronic Travel Authorization is likely to be a necessary requirement for citizens and residents of the European Economic Area (EEA) for a variety of purposes. This is anticipated to come into effect once the UK has completed its transition period for leaving the European Union and free movement has ended.

The EEA comprises 30 nations, which include all 27 EU states as well as 3 countries with free trade agreements with the Union. Residents of the following countries will, therefore, need a UK eTA to travel to England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czechia
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

It is also predicted that the new eTA could also be a requirement for non-visa nationals (NVN), in addition to those travelling to the UK with an EEA passport. There are currently 56 countries that fall into this category including, Canada, Australia and the United States of America.

This differs considerably from the UK EVW which is only available for eligible citizens of 4 Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. However, similarly to the Electronic Visa Waiver for eligible GCC citizens, the eTA will permit travel for the purposes of:

  • Tourism
  • Business
  • Short term study
  • Private medical treatment

How will applicants be able to obtain an eTA?

To obtain an eTA after it launches, it will be necessary to make an online application. In doing so, the registrants will need to provide essential information about themselves as well as passport data and the answers to a number of important security questions.

The process of registering for an eTA is set to be straightforward and will only involve a few quick steps. To apply for the system it will be necessary to:

  • Complete the online application correctly in its entirety
  • Provide a functional email address
  • Pay the visa waiver fees with a credit or debit card

The information entered into the online application form must be exactly the same as the data in the passenger’s passport and other identifying documents. This includes any commas, hyphens or other typographical features. Not doing so could lead to delays in processing the eTA or the rejection of an application.

Assuming all the data provided is correct and the applicant is eligible for this new system, the eTA should be approved in under 72 hours. It will then be sent directly to the registrant’s email address provided during the application where it can either be printed off or stored digitally for arrival into the UK.

Just like a UK EVW, it is essential that the traveller enters Britain with the same passport as used during the application for an eTA. If the information on a travel document doesn’t match with the details provided on the Electronic Travel Authorization, it won’t be valid for use.

How long will an eTA be valid for?

It is not yet known officially exactly how long the eTA will be valid for. Nevertheless, it is expected to remain usable for a duration of 2-3 years, following the example of available passenger pre-screening travel authorization programs such as the USA’s ESTA or the EU’s own soon-to-launch ETIAS.

The eTA is also set to be multiple-entry document allowing passengers to visit the UK a number of times during its validity period. It is believed that this will permit holder’s to enter Britain for trips of up to 3 months at a time.

This differs significantly from the UK EVW which is permitted for trips of up to 6 months, although, this form of visa waiver is a single-use document. However, the online application for the Electronic Visa Waiver only takes a matter of minutes to complete and can be approved in as little as 24 hours, in case travellers need to visit the UK on numerous occasions.