UK opens Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme to Qatari nationals

Business and Personal Immigration, 15 November 2023

The UK’s Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme has now opened for Qatari nationals, who from today, need an ETA to travel to the UK and who will be the first in the world to benefit from the scheme.

The ETA scheme means that the visa requirement will be removed for short stays to the UK for nationals from the Gulf and Jordan. 

What is an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA)?

An Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) is a new requirement for people of certain nationalities who wish to come to the UK for up to 6 months as a visitor for tourism, visiting family and friends, business or study purposes, for up to 3 months on the Creative Worker visa concession, or to transit through the UK, whether or not passing through UK border control.

From today, if you’re travelling to the UK for one of the above purposes, and you’re a national of Qatar, you’ll need an ETA.  Qatari nationals have been able to apply since 25 October 2023.

From 22 February 2024, if you’re travelling to the UK for one of the above purposes, and you’re a national of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates (UAE), you’ll need an ETA. You will be able to apply for your ETA from 1 February 2024.

You will not need an ETA (even if a national of one of the above countries) if you have either a British or Irish passport, permission to live, work or study in the UK or if you hold any other visa to enter the UK.

In the future, the ETA scheme will apply worldwide to those who do not currently need a visa to visit or transit through the UK or who do not hold a UK immigration status, including nationals from Europe and America. Other nationalities do not need to apply yet and timings for when the scheme opens for them will be confirmed in due course.

How to apply for an ETA: Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and UAE nationals

If you need an ETA, you must make sure you apply online before booking any travel to the UK.

You’ll need to apply on the UK ETA app, or online on GOV.UK. You can apply on behalf of others and each traveller must get their own ETA, including children and babies.

An ETA will cost £10 per person and while the standard processing time for an application is 3 working days, the majority of applications so far have been decided within hours. It may take longer than 3 working days if further checks need to be made.

ETA’s are replacing Electronic Visa Waivers (EVW), which the majority of Gulf nationals currently apply for. An ETA is an improvement from the EVW, being a third of the price at £10 and allows unlimited visits to the UK over two years, or until the holder’s passport expires – whichever is sooner.

If you’re successful in your ETA application

You will receive an email confirmation if your application is approved, and your ETA will be electronically linked to the passport which you applied with.  For this reason, you must use the same passport which you apply with to travel to the UK, and your passport must be valid for the whole of your stay.

When you check in for your journey, you may not be allowed to board without a valid ETA.  As the ETA is digitally linked to your passport, you may not be required to show a paper copy.  Nonetheless, it may be helpful to print the confirmation email for your own records.

While an ETA grants you permission to travel to the UK, it does not grant you entry.  Upon entering the UK, you can either use an eGate if you’re eligible or see a Border Force officer.

To ensure the scheme is implemented smoothly, the UK government is working closely with global airline, maritime and rail carriers, who are crucial to the successful delivery of the scheme. 

How long will your ETA be valid for

Once granted, your ETA will be valid for multiple journeys over 2 years or until the passport you applied with expires – whichever is sooner.  If your passport expires during the 2-year ETA validity period, you will need to apply for and obtain a new ETA.

If you’re unsuccessful in your ETA application

If you’re refused an ETA, you will need to apply for either a Standard Visitor visa to visit the UK, a Creative Worker visa to come to the UK as a Creative Worker or a Transit visa to transit through the UK.

How can we help?

We can provide comprehensive advice to individuals globally seeking to apply for an ETA to visit or transit the UK.  We can advise on how the changes will affect you and ensure that your ETA application complies with all eligibility requirements to ensure your application is successful so you can visit the UK for 2 years.

For more detailed UK immigration advice and for any other questions on this and other UK immigration developments, please contact us at info@viajeukimmigration.com