MUSCAT: Omanis received encouraging news as the United Kingdom’s Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme will soon be launched, facilitating smoother and more cost-effective travel to the UK.

As per a press release from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, the UK’s Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme is now accessible to Omanis, as well as nationals from other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Jordan.

Effective from February 22, 2024, the ETA application costs only £10, allowing for unlimited visits to the UK within a two-year period.

Nationals of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Jordan can now enjoy unlimited visits to the UK over a two-year period or until passport expiration, whichever comes first, for just £10.

Previously, Gulf nationals paid £30 through the Electronic Visa Waiver scheme, while Jordanians paid £115 for a single-use visitor visa. This expansion of the scheme follows the successful implementation for Qataris since October 2023, with many utilising the UK ETA mobile app for application.

ETAs replace Electronic Visa Waivers (EVW) and waive the visa requirement for short stays in the UK for Gulf and Jordanian nationals. It’s important to note that an ETA is not a visa but rather permission to travel, authorising individuals to proceed to the UK border. On arrival, individuals must still obtain leave to enter through regular procedures, either by consulting a Border Force Officer or using an eGate if eligible.

Gulf visitors play a significant role in the UK economy, with nearly 800,000 visitors spending £2 billion during their stays in 2022.

The ETA marks a milestone in the UK Government’s efforts to transform and digitise the UK border and immigration system, aiming for a more seamless customer experience while ensuring robust security checks to enhance border security and prevent abuse.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said, “The ETA will enhance the experience of traveling to the UK for the thousands of visitors from the Gulf and Jordan, who represent our second-largest tourism market and contribute billions to the UK economy. The scheme is a crucial step towards solidifying the UK’s position as a global leader in border innovation and security.”

Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia Lord Ahmad expressed his delight, and said, “I am pleased that with the introduction of ETAs, it will be even simpler for our Gulf and Jordanian friends to visit the UK. Our strong people-to-people connections underpin our close partnership, and we all benefit from the boost to trade, education, and tourism ties that ETAs will bring.”

The application process for an ETA is streamlined and swift, entirely digital via a mobile phone app. Applicants are required to provide biographic and biometric details and answer questions regarding suitability and criminal history. Once approved, the ETA is digitally linked to the passport.

Decisions are typically made within three working days, with the majority processed within hours.

The scheme is applicable worldwide to those who do not currently require a visa to visit or transit through the UK or hold UK immigration status, including nationals from Europe and America.

Other nationalities are not yet eligible for application, and details regarding the opening of the scheme for them will be provided in due course.

Until February 22, 2024, nationals of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates will continue to require an Electronic Visa Waiver or a visa, while Jordanian nationals will still require a visa to travel to the UK.

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