May 28, 2024

Disruption warning as new ETA rules come into force

Travellers from Qatar will need to apply for an entry visa from today (October 25) under the new Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme.

The scheme requires individuals travelling to the UK from certain countries, who do not normally need pre-approval, to apply for permission to travel to the UK prior to entry.

The new scheme will initially just be open for nationals from Qatar, who will require an ETA if they are travelling to the UK on or after November 15 2023.

The ETA application process will involve submitting a brief online application on the UK government website or via an ETA app and will cost £10 per applicant. 

The ETA will be rolled out to other countries on a gradual basis from February 2024 onwards. Nationals from Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates will need an ETA if travelling to the UK on or after February 22 2024, and will need to apply from February 1 2024. More nationalities will be added to the scheme later.

Moji Oyediran, Senior Associate and Business Immigration Law Specialist in the Employment Department at Travers Smith, said: “The introduction of this pre-approval process will add a considerable amount of administration for people visiting the UK, who would have previously been able to travel here without applying for prior permission. 

“It is yet to be seen whether there will be delays in issuing the ETAs and how this will impact specific types of travellers to the UK, e.g. business visitors travelling at short notice.”

The Business Travel Association welcomed the “modernisation to UK border entry requirements for overseas visitors”.

CEO Clive Wratten said: “The commencement of the ETA for Qatari visitors is both an exciting and important step. Moreover, it is vital that entry to the UK is efficient to allow overseas business travellers to invest in the UK.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the UK Border Force, ensuring that overseas business travellers’ needs are a core focus of border modernisations. These investments will in turn develop and support the UK economy.

“Most important is that the travel industry works together with the government  to effectively communicate the new system to avoid any potential disruption at the borders upon arrival.”  

Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO of The Advantage Travel Partnership, added: “While we understand the new ETA system has been designed to improve border security, similar to the ESTA system in the United States, we need to ensure that travel remains as simple as possible and that it is not seen as a barrier to visit or do business in the UK.

“While we are hoping to see the initial launch go smoothly, it is vital any challenges are dealt with quickly and efficiently before a further roll out of the system to the Gulf States and beyond. The UK is part of a highly competitive global economy and it’s vital that we remain capable of delivering frictionless travel for both business and leisure travellers.”