February 20, 2023

U.K. Immigration: Electronic Travel Authorisation Scheme to Launch in 2023

As part of its new universal “Permission to Travel” scheme, the United Kingdom (U.K.) government is introducing an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme for visa-exempt individuals visiting the U.K. By requiring everyone wishing to travel to the U.K. to have permission in advance of travel, the U.K. government intends to implement security checks at an earlier stage. The government believes that this should result in a more seamless and efficient entry process at the U.K. border.

Who Will Need to Apply?

The ETA scheme will be introduced for individuals (except British and Irish citizens) visiting the U.K. who do not currently need a visa before travelling to the U.K. The full list of eligible countries is yet to be confirmed but it is expected that non-visa nationals from European Economic Area (EEA) member states, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Brazil will be amongst those who will need to apply. The scheme will not impact those from a visa country (known as visa nationals) who will still need to ensure that they have a valid visa to visit the U.K. or those non-visa nationals who are travelling to the U.K. for another reason — such as work or study. This is because they will have already obtained a visa or immigration status prior to travelling and in so doing will have already completed the various security checks during the visa application process.

What Will This Look Like?

As the ETA scheme is not a visa, those to whom it applies will maintain their visa-free status but will need an ETA to board a carrier travelling to the U.K. Upon arrival at the U.K. border, an individual will still need to obtain leave to enter, as per the process now. This digital travel authorisation procedure is similar to the systems already used in countries such as the U.S. (ESTA), Canada (ETA), Australia (ETA), New Zealand (NZeTA), and also in the EU from November 2023 (ETIAS).

These individuals will need to apply for the ETA online before their departure. They must provide their national biometric passport, travel and contact details. The cost of the ETA is yet to be confirmed but it is expected to be comparable to the cost of the ESTA (USD 20) and ETIAS (EUR 7). The majority of individuals will receive their ETA within a short time of submitting their application. It is anticipated that a successful ETA will remain valid for two-to-three years, meaning that the application would not have to be repeated for each U.K. visit.

When Will the ETA Scheme Be Introduced?

The ETA is to be rolled out in phases beginning early this year.

  • The first phase is expected to be beta testing (Q1 2023).
  • The second phase is expected to apply to nationals of Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia (Q1 through to late Q3 2023).
  • The last phase is expected to be rolled out to the rest of the world (late Q3 2023 onwards).


Pending full guidance from the U.K. government, employers should be aware that once the new scheme is implemented relevant employees travelling to the U.K. must first obtain an ETA.

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