The United Kingdom is gearing up for a substantial transformation in its travel and immigration protocols with the imminent launch of the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme, scheduled for October 25, 2023. Initially, this scheme will exclusively affect Qatari nationals embarking on journeys to the UK on or after November 15, 2023.

The objective behind this initiative is to bolster border security within the UK. The UK Government characterizes it as “a new prerequisite for individuals exempt from visa requirements when traveling to the UK.” However, this additional layer of bureaucracy may deter many potential visitors to the UK.

Electronic Travel Authorisation: A Brief Overview

The Electronic Travel Authorisation, abbreviated as ETA, is a digital travel permit. It is asserted that the ETA scheme will enhance the security of the UK’s borders and streamline the entry process for short-term visitors. Its practical implications are yet to be observed.

Who Must Obtain an ETA?

The ETA scheme primarily targets individuals planning brief visits to the UK who are not obligated to obtain a visa or those without an existing UK immigration status before their trip. This includes:

  • Tourists with stays of up to six months
  • Individuals visiting family and friends
  • Business travelers
  • Short-term students
  • Individuals arriving in the UK for up to three months under the Creative Worker visa concession
  • Passengers transiting through the UK

However, certain exceptions apply. Individuals are exempt from the ETA requirement if they possess:

  • British or Irish passports
  • Permission to reside, work, or study in the UK
  • Valid UK entry visas

The ETA Application Process

Applying for an ETA can be initiated through the dedicated UK ETA app or the GOV.UK website. It is recommended to complete the ETA application before making any travel arrangements to the UK.

Each traveler, including young children and infants, must obtain their own ETA. Nonetheless, applications can be submitted on behalf of others. The application fee stands at £10 per applicant.

Arriving at the UK Border with an ETA

Once granted, an ETA remains valid for multiple entries within a two-year period or until the expiration of the passport used for the application, whichever occurs first.

Even with an ETA, entry into the UK is not guaranteed. Travelers must still undergo passport control at the border. The ETA is digitally linked to the passport, eliminating the need for a physical copy. However, travelers must ensure they carry the same passport used for the ETA application and that it remains valid throughout their UK stay.

Key Dates for the ETA Rollout

The introduction of the ETA scheme will take place in phases. Qatari nationals will be the first affected, requiring an ETA for UK travel on or after November 15, 2023, with applications opening on October 25, 2023.

For nationals from Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, or the United Arab Emirates, an ETA will be mandatory for travel to the UK on or after February 22, 2024, and applications can be submitted from February 1, 2024.

Further expansions of the ETA scheme to include additional nationalities will occur in subsequent stages.

New Amendments to UK Immigration Rules

In conjunction with the ETA scheme, the UK Home Office has announced a series of alterations to immigration regulations. These modifications are detailed in the official 66-page statement of changes, HC 1780, which encompasses adjustments related to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) and ETA requisites.

These updates also introduce several new appendices to the Immigration Rules, including Appendix Children and Appendix Returning Resident, aimed at enhancing clarity and consistency in the immigration process.

Implications of the ETA and Immigration Rule Changes

The impending introduction of the ETA scheme and the associated alterations in immigration rules will have substantial consequences for travelers from Qatar and other specified countries. Additionally, changes to the EU Settlement Scheme are underway.


The imminent launch of the Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme and the concurrent immigration rule changes signify a substantial shift in the UK’s approach to border security and immigration policies. The ETA scheme has faced criticism for introducing an additional layer of bureaucracy that may inconvenience travelers to the UK. Currently, non-visa national travelers do not need to apply for any form of authorization prior to visiting the UK.

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