In 2022, the UK announced an update to the Nationality and Borders Bill regarding a major change to the immigration process. By the end of 2024, all border control measures will be digitalised, and all foreign visitors to the UK will require an approved ETA (Electronic Travel Authorisation).
The new travel programme is similar to those in operation in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It will apply to the borders of all four UK countries: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
What Is the Purpose of the UK ETA?
The key driver is the security and control of UK borders. Prior to this legislation, there were people of certain specific immigration statuses and travellers who did not require visas to enter the UK for short stays. UK border control and law enforcers were and are not able to speedily or accurately assess potential visitors as a possible risk in advance of their arrival in the UK.
The new UK ETA programme will give more control over borders. The immigration service will know who exactly is entering the UK and will also be able to block visitors perceived as a security risk or threat from entering.
Who Needs an ETA?
All British citizens, those with certain protected statuses and Republic of Ireland nationals are exempt from needing a UK ETA, even if they do not live in the UK. The current eligibility list identifies that citizens of these 92 different countries will require an ETA.
The list includes all visitors from the European Union, the European Economic Area and Switzerland who currently do not require a vis. It also includes citizens from Australia, New Zealand, The USA and Canada. There are no age exemptions. Travellers of all ages will need a valid ETA.
What Travel Is Covered by the ETA?
The UK ETA covers every reason for travel. If you are coming to the UK for a holiday, business trip, studying or medical treatment for a period of fewer than six months, you must apply for an ETA. A UK ETA for Belgium citizens will be required unless you want to work in the UK or plan to spend longer than six months — in which case, you will need to apply for a visa.
For now, there are no changes to the visa application process. Unlike the ETA, which is made easy by being available online, visa applications have to be made in person at a UK embassy or consulate.
How do You Apply for a UK ETA?
The only option available to apply for a UK ETA for Belgium citizens is online. There are no alternative ways to make an application.
It is advisable to apply for an ETA well in advance of the intended travel date. The application input process is quick and easy, but processing will take between 48 and 72 hours. You will not be allowed to enter the UK without a valid ETA, so you may consider it inadvisable to book and confirm your travel plans until your ETA is approved.
All borders and points of entry will be within the programme. So, whether you are travelling by air, sea or on the Eurostar, an ETA is required. It will be a criminal offence to try to obtain a UK ETA by deception or fraud.
The Requirements for a UK ETA for Belgium Citizens
There may be changes to the programme’s process before it is finalised and fully introduced, but a set of UK ETA requirements has been released. The UK ETA requirements are as follows:
• A traveller needs a valid biometric passport.
• A traveller needs a valid email address.
• Disclosure of personal identification details.
• Information about the purpose of visiting and plans while in the UK.
• Disclosure of criminal or past immigration issues and information regarding memberships of proscribed organisations.
Applicants are expected to inform of their address while in the UK, regardless of the type of accommodation. If you are planning to travel around, you may be asked to provide an expected itinerary along with addresses. Along with the application, a fee is payable by either debit or credit card. Applications without full payment will not be processed.
How Is an ETA Granted?
There is no paperwork or physical documentation produced, although there is a confirmation email that can be printed if desired. The approved ETA is electronically linked to your biometric passport and will be verified at the UK point of entry when scanned by border control officials.
Approved ETAs are notified to the Advanced Passenger Information database. Under the new legislation, travel carriers will retain responsibility for checking that their passengers have valid documentation to enter the UK before they can allow them to board their flights. An ETA enables the holder to travel freely throughout the whole of the UK throughout the ETA validity period.
An ETA is valid for six months from the date of issue or the date the linked passport expires, whichever is earlier. If an ETA is due to expire during your stay, you will need to apply for a new ETA to continue your visit.
You can visit the UK multiple times on the same ETA while it is valid. Once it expires, you need to apply for a new ETA. If you want/need to extend your stay beyond six months once in the UK, you may have to leave the country to apply for a visa.
More information about a UK ETA for Belgium citizens can be found in the ETA frequently asked questions section.