LONDON: The United Kingdom on Thursday announced the rollout of an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) scheme, with visitors from Qatar the first to use it from October. Qataris will apply in advance for an ETA, which authorizes an individual to travel to the UK and which the government says will make border crossings more efficient and secure. By the end of 2024, ETAs will be required for all foreign visitors who are eligible to come visa-free for short stays, including from Europe.
Currently, travelers from the continent and countries such as the United States and Australia do not need to make any form of application to visit to the UK. “Strengthening our border remains one of the government’s top priorities,” British Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said. “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,” he added.
The United States has a similar scheme, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). As with the ESTA, the UK government said the application process would be online. Most visitors will apply via a mobile app and receive a “swift decision”, it said. Once granted an ETA, individuals will be able to make multiple visits to the UK over a two-year period, but the government did not specify how much applications will cost.
After the initial launch for Qatar, the scheme will be open to visitors from the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council states and Jordan from Feb 2024. The European Union has plans to launch a similar electronic permit next year which, following Brexit, will include Britons. While Britain has left the EU, Ireland remains in the bloc. But Irish nationals will be exempt from the new UK scheme, as the two countries continue to share a “Common Travel Area”. – AFP