The introduction of the Government’s new Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme opens today with non-visa international business travellers required to obtain a digital permission to travel.
HR teams are recommended to plan and help staff with ETA applications and tracking to avoid disruption, says Fragomen, the world’s largest provider of immigration services.
The ETA scheme is being introduced in phases, starting with Qatari nationals able to apply from 25 October 2023 for travel on or after 15 November 2023, and extending to the rest of the world throughout 2024.
Working similarly to the ESTA scheme for short-term travel to the USA, ETAs will be an electronic-only authorisation and will be needed by short-stay business travellers, tourists and those in transit.
The European Union is expected to introduce a similar scheme, ETIAS, in 2025 for all travellers to the EU, including UK nationals. A business traveller could easily require several electronic travel authorisations for different countries making tracking each of them more of a challenge.
Kelly Chua, a Director at Fragomen, said: “An ETA provides digital permission to travel to the UK and will be needed to board a flight, boat or train destined for the UK. It is part of the Government’s intention to enhance border security by screening passengers before they travel to identify potential threats much earlier.
“It will provide additional challenges for frequent corporate travellers and for their employers, particularly HR and mobility teams who might wish to track the validity dates of their employees’ ETAs to ensure they are travel ready. Those who do not have a valid ETA may not be able to travel to the UK and that may cause considerable disruption to business activity.
“Travellers should also note that it is not a visa and does not confer permission to enter the country. Travellers who require a visa to enter the country will still need to obtain a valid visa. Travellers that do not require a visa to enter the UK, such as US citizens, will need to apply for an ETA.”
It will be possible to apply for an ETA online or via an app with no need to attend an application centre. Travellers will be required to provide basic personal information, passport data, a photograph of themselves, details of their journey to and from the UK and security information.
Travellers should apply for an ETA at least three days before travel but are recommended to apply earlier. ETAs will be valid for two years and will cost £10 per applicant.
Kelly adds: “Where an application for an ETA is declined, that individual may be required to obtain a relevant visa such as a Visit or Transit visa in advance of travel. UK and Irish nationals will not need an ETA to enter the country, so too non-Irish nationals lawfully living in Ireland and travelling to the UK from the Common Travel Area. Travellers with a valid visa also do not need to apply for an ETA.”