Why most travellers will soon need a permit to enter the UK

The United Kingdom is joining the EU, US and Canada by implementing its own ETA entry permit.

By Chris Ashton, January 24 2023
Why most travellers will soon need a permit to enter the UK

Travellers jetting off to the United Kingdom in the near future will soon face a very different entry process, with the island nation primed to roll out an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme from the first quarter of this year.

Following a similar approach to the United States’ ESTA and Canada’s eTA, the UK ETA will require visa-exempt travellers (excluding British and Irish citizens) to apply for permission to travel in advance of their trip, simply by filling out a brief online form and paying a fee.

Britain’s Home Secretary previously described this ‘permission to enter’ scheme, introduced via the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 bill, as making it “easier for our friends to come to and contribute to the UK, but harder for those we do not want to come here”.

The European Union is introducing its own version too, known as ETIAS, later this year.

Although a departure from the current process, it’s actually rather straightforward.

How does the UK ETA work?

Prior to travel, passengers from approved countries will need to complete an online application form which covers various details such as contact information, biometric data and travel plans, in addition to some simple eligibility questions.

Responses are then checked against a variety of security databases and, if the application is successful, the traveller should receive their ETA within 48 to 72 hours.

On arrival, the border process remains unchanged, with passengers still required to line up at immigration. However, with travellers having already been vetted prior to travel, it’s hoped the new ETA will speed up the process significantly.

It’s worth noting the ETA is not a visa; it merely authorises individuals to board a carrier and travel to the UK.

When does the UK ETA come into effect?

A phased rollout of the UK Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme begins in the first quarter of 2023, with the Home Office claiming the program will be fully in place by the end of 2024.

The rollout will follow the below schedule:

  • Q1 First Release: private beta testing phase
  • Late Q1 to early Q3 Second Release: Qatar Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia
  • Late Q2 onwards: Rest of the World

Who can apply for the UK ETA?

Full details are yet to be revealed, but it’s expected the list of countries eligible for a British ETA will be in line with the nation’s existing visa exemption list. That includes arrivals from countries in the EU, along with Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

How to apply for the UK ETA

Once the ETA program is released to the general public, travellers will need to apply for an ETA by visiting the Visa & Immigration page of the official Government website: Gov.uk

How much is a UK ETA?

The British Home Office says full details of the scheme, including how much an ETA costs, will be announced “in due course”. Similar schemes around the world give us an idea of what to expect though:

  • Canada’s eTA is CAD$7 (AUD$7.50)
  • The European Union’s ETIAS will cost €7 (AUD$11)
  • The United States’ ESTA is USD$21 (AUD$29)

How long is the UK ETA valid for?

The validity period of a UK ETA is expected to be revealed soon. However, looking to other countries with similar schemes for guidance, it should be between two to three years.

What happens if I don’t have a UK ETA?

Travellers will need to provide proof of an approved ETA to their carrier prior to travel, either in printed or digital form. The Home Office says it will alert carriers to the status of passengers before travel.

If a passenger arrives without an ETA, they may face a penalty charge.

Does the ETA replace a visa?

No, the UK Electronic Travel Authorisation applies to short stays of up to six months for tourism and business purposes only and does not replace a visa.

Those visiting for other purposes, such as living or working in the UK, still need to apply for an appropriate visa.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 108

Wonderful, my family of 7 will be in the UK from1 June 2023 until the 27th. I trust they can get their act together to clearly advise Commonwealth members what is required. Todate the advice concerning wavers is totally ambiguous; time to put it all in English!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 412

If it's not one thing then it's something else that travelers have to pay for. Never ending.

I'm hoping to visit family and friends in UK in May, for 2-3 weeks, then do a cruise somewhere in Europe.  It was easy to check that I don't need a visa.  My British passport expired several years ago and I didn't renew it, but my Australian passport is still valid.  So UK will be OK, but need to check about EU.

I have dual Australian/ British passports. I always enter UK on my British passport - will I still need an ETA or are British passport holders exempt?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Mar 2016

Total posts 55

Given how efficiently they do things in the UK  I can't imagine they will have any problem

25 Jan 2023

Total posts 1

Why would they expect British born Australians to apply for this permit. I thought if you were born there you could enter visa or permit free.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jun 2017

Total posts 36

Probably should mention that australia invented these damn things and has been making people pay for them since 2008.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jan 2017

Total posts 22

Highly likely that Australian passport holder with a valid UK ETA and qualify for visa exemption will continue to use the electronic gates, rather than lining up to see a Border Force Officer as indicated above.

It's also worth noting that Australia has had an ETA in place for several years and charges visitors A$20 

I always found the Poms to have a lot of front, but this takes the cake.   The UK gave Europe the "chop" a little while ago trade-wise and then they decided they'd do business with "the colonies" again.   Now the Poms are proposing this!!!!    The upcoming Ashes tour needs to be cancelled based on this affront!!!   I was going to go to the UK for the Ashes but now they can get stuffed!!!!!      Grüße aus Australien!!!!


09 May 2020

Total posts 537

Some sources suggest this ETA also apply to those transiting UK airports onto other non uk destinations which is similar to other countries who has implemented ETA system, but the actual uk government website doesn’t currently state this.

Interesting regional selection of phasing in process. Of course I have no proof that this is preferentially affecting pax of various popular transcontinental airlines based in this particular region, except to note these airlines compete directly with BA on their east bound routes.

United Airlines - Million Miler

28 Jan 2023

Total posts 1

I live in MI and cross the border by car every month. Does this affect ground border crossings like mine?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Oct 2017

Total posts 87

New name for an Arrival/ Departure Tax ??  Would prefer if they don't call it a permit but rather a "charge" with some questions attached

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