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Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) to launch for UK visits from Qatar then other Gulf states plus Jordan before global roll-out

Updated 13 March 2023

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has announced that visitors to the UK from Qatar will be the first to use the new Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme before travelling to the UK.

The new digital pre-travel vetting scheme is similar to the USA’s ESTA visa waiver application and the anticipated European Union’s ETIAS for visitors who don’t enjoy free movement with the EU.

Visitors from the Gulf Cooperation Council states, and Jordan, will be the first to benefit from the cheap and easy ETA scheme, ahead of a worldwide expansion of the scheme throughout 2024. Qatari visitors will be the first to be able to apply for an ETA with applications opening on 25 October 2023 for travel from 15 November onwards.

The scheme will be rolled out for citizens of other countries that currently do not need a visa to visit the UK.

According to UK Visas and Immigration, “the application process will be quick, light touch and entirely digital with most visitors applying via a mobile app and receiving a swift decision on their application.”

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said: “Strengthening our border remains one of the Government’s top priorities.

“ETAs will enhance our border security by increasing our knowledge about those seeking to come to the UK and preventing the arrival of those who pose a threat.

“It will also improve travel for legitimate visitors, with those visiting from Gulf Cooperation Council states being among the first to benefit.”

From 15 November 2023, you’ll need an ETA if you’re travelling to the UK as a visitor and you’re a national of Qatar.

From 1 February 2024, nationals of the following countries should apply for an online ETA for permission to travel to the UK from 22 February onwards as a visitor:

  • Bahrain
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Oman
  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Arab Emirates

More countries are to be added to the scheme over the course of 2024. The scheme is being rolled out to Jordan and these Gulf states first partly because there is a similar system for visiting the UK from the Gulf states called the Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW).

UK visitors currently apply for an electronic visa waiver (EVW) instead of a visa if you are a national of: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or United Arab Emirates. The online application costs £30 and allows you to visit the UK once for up to six months for tourism, business, study or medical treatment.

The new ETA will allow nationals from these countries plus Jordan to come to the UK multiple times for up to six months at a time for tourism, visiting family and friends, business or study; for up to three months on the Creative Worker visa concession; or to transit through the UK repeatedly within the two years it is valid for (unless you replace your passport in that time).

This is an online security vetting scheme which the UK Government says will let them know who is arriving in the UK before they come. Those with a poor immigration history – such as a previous immigration law breach or a criminal offence in the past year or with a custodial sentence of 12 months or more will not be able to use the ETA, they will need to apply for a visa instead.

By the end of 2024, ETAs will be a requirement worldwide for visitors who do not need a visa for short stays, including those visiting from Europe. Visitors from Europe and some other nations such as America and Australia do not currently need to make any form of application to visit to the UK, however this will be changing with the introduction of ETAs.
British and Irish nationals will not need an ETA to travel to the UK, nor will anyone with a visa to enter the UK or permission to live, work or study in the UK

As is currently the case however, individuals arriving in the UK via Ireland, will still be subject to UK immigration requirements, including the need for visitors to have an ETA. Those legally resident in Ireland will not need an ETA when travelling to the UK from within the Common Travel Area (UK, Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man).