Airline passengers in the arrivals hall at London Heathrow Airport, UK, on Friday, December 23, 2022.
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The UK will require all visa-exempt travelers to apply for a digital travel permit before entering the country, in a move seen as the biggest change to Border Force rules in decades.
People with passports currently arriving in the country without pre-screening — including the European Union, the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and other nationals — will need to apply for and pay the eTA fee by the end of 2024.
British and Irish citizens and people with settled status in the UK will be exempt from the scheme.
The government says the scheme will enhance border security and be comparable to those used by countries such as the United States and Canada. The UK has previously said that under current rules it does not have completely accurate data on the number of people entering and leaving the country.
The cost ETA has not been confirmed but is expected to be in a similar range to those charted. The US Electronic System for Travel Pass costs $21.
Travelers from some countries are set to enjoy smoother access to the UK. The program will be launched for Qatari nationals in November when it will replace the electronic visa waiver system, and will expand to Jordanian nationals in February 2024.
However, it will mark a significant change for many frequent travelers from Europe and elsewhere who do not currently require pre-approval.
Applications will be submitted online or via an application. Those with biometric passports will scan them with their phones, and may also need to take a “dynamic selfie,” which includes motion, to submit a picture of their face.
It will be processed automatically, with a decision within three days. Some orders will be processed more quickly. If approved, the ETA will be valid for multiple visits over two years.
Nationals who are currently able to use ePassport gates on arrival in the UK will still be able to do so using an ETA.
Anyone arriving at the UK border by air or rail without an ETA will be refused, including if they arrive via Ireland but are not Irish or British nationals.
The government previously said it expected to handle 30 million ETA applications annually.
It is understood that the UK has ambitions to eventually require all travelers to provide fingerprint biometrics before travel, and is working on a scheme that would see this provided in advance by smartphone.
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