A visa waiver scheme for visitors (including business visitors) to the UK is to be rolled out later this month.
Up to now, non-visa nationals who include citizens from the EU, Japan, US, Canada and Australia, are not required a visa to visit the UK. They are automatically granted permission to enter the UK at the border and can use the E Gates used by UK citizens. However, as part of the Government’s crackdown on immigration and to track and screen who is coming to the UK, non-visa nationals will now be required to obtain pre-authorisation to travel. This does not apply to citizens of countries who need a visa for the UK.
The new electronic travel authorization (ETA) – which is similar to the ESTA permit to enter the US – will be a mandatory requirement for visitors to the UK. The scheme is expected to be fully in place by November 2023. Republic of Ireland passport holders will be exempt along with all UK resident permit holders.
The visitors will now have to factor in applying for the ETA as part of their travel plans to the UK. They will have to provide basic personal details, passport data, security information and also travel details when completing the online form. Those with criminal convictions are required to declare them and might be refused entry into the UK. It is of employers’ responsibility to ensure employees have completed their applications before undertaking business trips.
The ETA online application is designed to be simple, and a decision will be provided within 48-72 hours.
Whilst the UK rolls out ETA, the EU will introduce a similar program in the EU and Schengen area in November 2023: ETIAS (Europe Travel Information and Authorisation System) will be a mandatory EU entry requirement for citizens of visa exempt countries.
Under the ETIAS plan, visitors will be able to enter the EU with ETIAS and stay for up to 90 days for business or tourism purposes alike.
Individuals who wish to stay in the EU for longer than 90 consecutive days to live, work or study must keep on applying for a Schengen visa, before entering the Union.
The cost of the ETA UK is yet to be announced but is expected to be in the region of £15 (the US equivalent ESTA is $20 and ETIAS will be €7 per application). It is also expected that each ETA will give pre-travel authorisation for a duration of 2-3 years although this is yet to be confirmed.
The material contained in this article is provided for general purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice. Appropriate legal advice should be sought for specific circumstances and before action is taken.
© Miller Rosenfalck LLP, January 2023