UK opens electronic travel authorization scheme

The UK’s electronic travel authorization (ETA) scheme has officially opened for Qatari nationals who, from today, need one to travel to the UK.

This landmark opening demonstrates the UK government’s delivery in transforming and digitizing the UK border, enabling an increasingly seamless customer experience in the future for the millions of legitimate visitors who come to the UK.

Qataris have been able to apply for their ETA since 25 October 2023, with most doing so using the mobile app, which allows for a simple and fast application.

Last year, the UK welcomed almost 800,000 visitors from the Gulf, 45,000 of whom came from Qatar, with this set to increase over the next few years.

His Majesty’s Ambassador to the State of Qatar, Jon Wilks CMG, said:

I am delighted to announce the official opening of the electronic travel authorization scheme for Qatari nationals, who will be the first in the world to benefit from the scheme.

This initiative not only simplifies the travel process for Qataris visiting the UK but also reflects the strength of our bilateral relationship. We look forward to welcoming more visitors from Qatar, further building the human bridge between our two countries.

Nationals of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Jordan will need an ETA if they’re visiting the UK from 22 February 2024, and can apply for their ETA from 1 February 2024.

ETAs are replacing Electronic Visa Waivers (EVW) which the majority of Gulf nationals currently apply for. An ETA is an improvement from the EVW, being a third of the price at £10 and allowing unlimited visits to the UK over two years, or until the holder’s passport expires – whichever is sooner. The move to the ETA scheme means that the visa requirement will be removed for short stays to the UK for nationals from the Gulf and Jordan.

When applying for an ETA, applicants need to provide biographical and biometric information, and answer questions on suitability and criminality. The application process ensures that those who pose a danger to the UK’s security, such as criminals, are not allowed to travel here. Once individuals have successfully applied, their ETA is digitally linked to their passport.

While the standard processing time for an application is 3 working days, the majority of applications so far have been decided within hours.

VisitBritain CEO, Patricia Yates, said:

It’s great to see the electronic travel authorization scheme underway for Qatari visitors, making travel to the UK easier, cheaper and more flexible for them. We look forward to the scheme rolling out to more Gulf nationals from February 2024 which, combined with our strong airline connections, will further boost our competitive tourism offer and our welcome to visitors from the region.

VisitBritain’s priority has been to rebuild visitor value and we have been competing hard in the Gulf with our multi-million pound GREAT Britain marketing campaign and working with partners in the market to drive bookings. We’re also working with the travel trade across the GCC so British destinations are sold internationally. We look forward to welcoming more visitors from the Gulf to experience Britain’s vibrant and exciting tourism offer into 2024 and beyond.

To ensure the scheme is implemented smoothly, the UK government is working closely with global airlines, maritime and rail carriers, who are crucial to the successful delivery of the scheme.

In the future, the scheme will apply worldwide to those who do not currently need a visa to visit or transit through the UK or who do not hold a UK immigration status, including nationals from Europe and America. Other nationalities do not need to apply yet and timings for when the scheme opens for them will be confirmed in due course.