The United Kingdom is currently in the process of introducing a system to pre-screen foreign travellers to any of the four countries that comprise the UK. These four countries are England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, and it is expected that, by the end of 2024, all foreign nationals entering the United Kingdom will require this electronic approval before leaving their home countries.
The new system is almost identical to the European Union’s ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System). It is titled UK ETA, which is short for United Kingdom Electronic Travel Authorisation. Initially, the scheme will apply to citizens of many Middle Eastern states and will then be extended to include every country in the world.
Regardless of age, citizens of countries that do not need a visa to enter the UK will require a UK ETA to enter the country starting in 2024. The only exceptions are British nationals and citizens of the Republic of Ireland.
The UK ETA mandate will apply to citizens of all countries, even those that currently enjoy visa-free access to the United Kingdom and will be mandatory for all visitors of all ages, including children.
Reasons for UK ETA
When the UK was a European Union member state, it was simply a matter of producing a valid passport in order to travel to another EU member country or even a Schengen Area member state. This was because, basically, the whole of Europe operated an easy access and travel system for all member states as part of European Union policy.
Following Brexit, however, Britain is no longer part of the EU. How the European Union now views British visitors is about to change with the introduction of ETIAS in 2023 and 2024. ETIAS is being introduced to digitalise European borders, thereby strengthening security over who enters and leaves Europe and where visitors can be located at any given time.
The UK ETA is similarly designed to increase border security and more closely monitor who enters the United Kingdom. The UK ETA is neither a paper document nor a stamp within a passport but an electronic link to a passport, and the approval to enter shows up when scanned at the passport holder’s point of departure and point of entry to the United Kingdom.
Although the UK ETA is not a typical standard visa although it has similar restrictions as the holder is only permitted to remain within the United Kingdom for up to ninety days. After this period of time has elapsed, holders of a UK ETA must leave the UK, although they are free to return as the UK ETA is a multiple entry permit. This stay could be for holidays, visiting friends or relatives or other personal reasons but does not allow the holder to take up any form of employment, even if the work is unpaid.
Mandatory for All
Citizens of EU and Schengen Area member states are presently allowed entry into the United Kingdom with just a valid passport. The same is true of a number of countries that currently enjoy a reciprocal visa-exemption arrangement with the United Kingdom. Among these visa-exempt countries are Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Japan, Canada and the United States.
Just as citizens from these countries will soon require an ETIAS to visit Europe, they will also require a UK ETA before undertaking any visit to the United Kingdom. This is expected to be fully in force by the end of 2024, barring any unforeseen technical issues or delays.
At this time, all prospective visitors must possess a valid biometric passport which has the necessary linked UK ETA approval. Children will not be exempt from the UK ETA mandate and it will be the parent’s or legal guardian’s duty to lodge the UK ETA application forms and ensure that all children’s passports have the necessary UK ETA attached.
Applying for Children’s UK ETA
As with all applications for a UK ETA, everything is done online, so access to a computer will be necessary, as will a valid email address. Applying on behalf of a child or minor is the duty of the child’s parents or legal guardian. In order to begin the process, the child will, of course, need to possess his or her own passport.
As is the case with all applications, this should be a biometric passport and less than ten years old. Additionally, the passport expiration date should fall at least six months after the last date to be spent within the United Kingdom.
It will also be necessary for the person submitting the child’s application to demonstrate their relationship to the child.
To submit the UK ETA application successfully, it will be necessary to supply:
- Details of the child’s passport, including passport number and expiration date
- Copy of the child’s birth certificate
- Documented proof of relationship
- Dates of entry into, and exit from, the United Kingdom
- Details of who the child will be staying with (if not the parents)
- Contact information for the child while in the UK
As most of these documents will need to be scanned and attached to the application, a scanner and working knowledge of how to use it is important.
All applications must be paid for in full when submitted, so an acceptable credit or debit card is of the utmost importance.
When the UK ETA becomes mandatory, it will apply to all non-UK and non-Irish travellers entering any of the four UK countries. Every passport must be linked to its own UK ETA, and this applies to children’s passports. Young children travelling on a parent’s or guardian’s passport will not require their own UK ETA as this will be linked to the passport covering the parent and child.
It is only when a child has his or her own passport that the UK ETA mandate will come into effect. There should be no issues with UK immigration authorities where very young children are concerned, but problems may arise with older children. Although the UK ETA is digital approval to travel, it is also necessary to carry a printed version of the approval form, as this may be requested by border security personnel at any point of entry to the United Kingdom.
Similarly, it would be prudent also to carry copies of children’s birth certificates as well as any documented evidence of the relationship to the children. While this additional documentation is not a requirement, it can be of tremendous benefit should any issues arise.