LONDON — Visitors from Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council states and Jordan will be among the first to benefit from the UK’s new Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) scheme, ahead of a worldwide expansion of the scheme in 2024.

Qatari visitors will be the first to apply for the ETA in October 2023.

By applying for an ETA in advance, visitors can benefit from smooth and efficient travel. The application process will be quick, light touch and entirely digital with most visitors applying via a mobile app and receiving a swift decision on their application.

The cost of ETA will be in line with similar international schemes, and individuals can make multiple visits to the UK over a two-year validity period.

The scheme will further strengthen the country's borders by ensuring robust security checks are conducted on every visitor pre-travel.

As part of the application process, individuals will need to provide biometric details and answer a set of suitability questions. This will ensure prior intelligence on those seeking to come to the UK helping to prevent dangerous individuals, such as criminals, from entering the country.

“Strengthening our border remains one of the government’s top priorities,” UK 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.”

He added: “It will also improve travel for legitimate visitors, with those visiting from Gulf Cooperation Council states being among the first to benefit.”

After the initial launch for Qatar, visitors from the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and Jordan can apply for an ETA from February 2024. The new scheme will entirely replace the current Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) Scheme, which requires visitors to the UK from GCC states to pay a higher cost for a single-use visit.

FCDO Minister of State for the Middle East, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon said: “I am delighted that our partners in the Middle East will be the first to benefit from the UK’s new scheme.

“Making travel smoother and more efficient for nationals coming from the GCC and Jordan will boost business and tourism links between the UK and the region.”

By the end of 2024, ETAs will be a requirement worldwide for visitors who do not need a visa for short stays, including those visiting from Europe. Visitors from Europe, and other nations such as America and Australia do not currently need to make any form of application to visit the UK. However this will be changing with the introduction of ETAs.

British and Irish nationals will not need an ETA to travel to the UK. As is currently the case however, individuals arriving in the UK via Ireland, will still be subject to UK immigration requirements, including the need for visitors to have an ETA. Those legally resident in Ireland will not need an ETA when travelling to the UK from within the Common Travel Area. 

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