From 2024 going forwards, any traveller wishing to visit the United Kingdom will need an ETA. This article provides information regarding Icelandic citizens, including how they will be impacted by the ETA and guidelines on how to apply for an electronic travel permit.
What Is the UK ETA?
Following key changes to the UK government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, the United Kingdom will introduce an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) programme that is set to be fully rolled out by the end of 2024. It will be similar to the existing systems operated by the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Under the terms of the new legislation, all UK borders are going to become completely digitalised, with the ETA working as a digital pass for foreign visitors. The access granted with a single UK ETA permit includes England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Currently, there are a total of 92 countries that are included on the government-issued list of nations that will need their citizens to apply for an ETA (Iceland is one of these listed nations). Any traveller from Iceland wanting to visit for a short stay in the UK must apply for an ETA.
The ETA is applicable to all reasons for travel business trips, studying, tourism and leisure, visiting friends or family and medical treatment. It will also apply to all means of transport, and all airports, seaports and Eurostar train ports will be part of the new programme.
How Will the New System Affect Icelandic Citizens?
Prior to the proposed change in procedure, as long as the standard visitor requirements were met, any Icelandic citizen who wanted to travel to the UK for a period of fewer than six months could do so without having to apply for any kind of visa. From 2024 onward, the UK ETA for Icelandic citizens will be required. It does not replace the standard visa that any non-UK citizen needs if they want to work in the UK or wish to stay longer than six months.
What is the Application Process for an ETA?
Although subject to final changes, there are enough details of the new ETA system to be able to give Icelandic citizens a clear view of what to do and what is needed when making an ETA application.
In order to make an application, the following requirements are needed:
• A valid Icelandic passport (valid means it must be in date at the time of intended travel).
• A recent passport photograph in digital format.
The application will ask for the following information:
• Personal details — full name, date of birth and current residential address.
• Passport details — number, date of issue and country of issue.
• Employment details — name, address and contact details of their employer.
• Travel details, including the purpose of the UK visit and the address to be used while in the country.
ETA applicants will also be asked to disclose information regarding nationality (such as dual citizenship), past immigration history, affiliations to any proscribed groups now or in the past and any criminal history.
This information will be checked against national and international databases used by border forces and the UK government. Any prospective traveller deemed to be of concern to national security will be denied an ETA.
How Is the Application Processed?
An ETA application is made online. There is no paper-based or in-person system. Every application must be accompanied by a non-refundable payment by debit or credit card. Any application made without payment will be voided and left unprocessed.
Processing is expected to take between 48 to 72 hours, but it is advisable to apply well in advance of your expected travel date. If an ETA is refused, the traveller can apply for a visa, but there is no guarantee it will be issued.
How Will an ETA Affect the Entry Process?
Once a UK ETA application is granted, it is assigned to the traveller as a digital permit linked to their passport.
All approved ETAs are lodged on global Advanced Passenger Information databases. This enables international travel carriers to continue to be responsible for ensuring their passengers have the relevant travel documents and permits to enter the UK. Icelandic travellers who cannot provide valid ETA permits will be denied access to trains, boats and planes going into UK territory.
A UK ETA for Icelandic citizens does not guarantee entry to the UK. If border control believes anyone to be inadmissible under UK law, they will be refused entry.
What Is the Time Period Covered by an ETA?
An ETA will be valid for six months from the date of issue. The exception to this will be if the passport it is linked to runs out before that 180-day period is up.
No visitor from Iceland or any other of the 92 listed countries will be able to stay in the United Kingdom for longer than the valid date of their current passport, regardless of how much longer the ETA is valid.
If an ETA is due to expire while the visitor is in the UK, an application for a new ETA needs to be made. A new UK ETA for Icelandic citizens will have a new six-month period of validity.
During the 180-day period of a valid ETA, Icelandic citizens will be able to travel to the four countries of the UK, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as many times as they wish. The permit essentially grants 180 days of unrestricted movement within the UK borders. Please note that you will still be required to show photo identification if travelling to Northern Ireland from the UK mainland.