The UK is currently developing a new digital travel permit programme, the ETA. This system, which will replace the current visa waiver scheme, is set to come into effect by the year 2024. When it is introduced, it will affect Soloman Islanders who want to visit the UK. This guide explains how the new system will work and how Solomon Islanders can apply for their ETA.
What Is the UK ETA for Solomon Island Citizens?
In recent years, countries around the world have started to introduce systems of digital travel permits. Experienced travellers might already be familiar with some of these programmes in other countries, which include the Canadian ETA and the United States ESTA. The ETA, or Electronic Travel Authorisation, is a version being developed by the UK. It is to be introduced as part of a British government plan to digitalise the borders of the country. It will allow stronger oversight over entries to the country, making it easier to detect potential security threats.
Like digital travel permits in other countries, the ETA is not a visa. Instead, it will replace the visa waiver scheme currently in effect in the UK. The ETA application process is far simpler than a visa application and can be completed entirely online. Once a traveller is approved for an ETA, they have permission to enter the UK and stay there for up to six months.
How Will Solomon Island Travellers Be Affected?
As a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Solomon Islands feature on the list of 92 countries with which the UK has visa waiver arrangements. This means that holders of a passport from the Solomon Islands do not need any other documentation to enter the UK at present. This will change when the ETA system is introduced. In the future, travellers will have to apply for a UK ETA for Solomon Island citizens before they have permission to enter the UK.
Solomon Islanders have a number of different reasons for visiting the United Kingdom. These may include:
• Business trips
• Courses of study
• Visiting friends and family
• Medical treatment
All of these reasons for coming to the UK are covered by the ETA. There is only one ETA application form. This will be completed by all visitors, regardless of their personal reason for travelling.
In some circumstances, travellers from the Solomon Islands need to apply for a visa to the UK. This is the case at the moment and will not change when the new system comes into effect. Solomon Islanders require a UK visa if they plan to spend more than six months in the UK, work there, or settle there permanently. The introduction of the ETA will not affect the way that the visa system works in any way.
Applying for the UK ETA for Solomon Island Citizens
Travellers from the Solomon Islands should apply for the ETA using an online form issued by the British government. This is part of an entirely digital system, so there will be no alternative offline forms. As part of the application process, applicants must pay a non-refundable fee. Again, this can be completed online.
Some information about the ETA requirements is available, and it’s a good idea for travellers to consult it before preparing for their trip. Please note that not all the details of the new system have been finalised or announced, such as how much the ETA application fee will cost. The information is subject to change before the ETA system is fully introduced. Nevertheless, it can give travellers an overview of what to expect from the system and the information needed to complete their ETA application. The list of requirements includes the following:
• A valid biometric passport issued by one of the countries on the eligibility list.
• A recent digital passport photo.
• Personal information. This will include data such as date of birth, employment information, contact details, etc.
• The purpose of the traveller’s visit to the UK.
• Details about the planned trip to the UK, such as address while in the country.
• A debit or credit card for the ETA application fee.
• Disclosure of a criminal record, past immigration offences and membership (past or present) of any proscribed groups or organisations.
The final point is because of the safeguarding aspect of the ETA. One of the goals of the new system is to improve the UK’s border security. Some travellers with ties to organised crime, terrorism or gangs may be considered to pose a threat to the safety of the UK. In this case, their application will be rejected.
Applicants must complete their form in full and pay the application fee before their ETA application can be processed.
Processing the UK ETA for Solomon Island Citizens
Digital travel permits are often made a condition of carriage in countries which have introduced their own ETA-like systems. If this happens in the UK, travellers will need to complete their ETA application early, allowing enough time for it to be fully processed and approved before they begin their journey. Travellers who do not have an ETA to show officials at their departure airport may be denied the right to board.
ETA applications are expected to take up to 72 hours to process. After the processing is complete, applicants will be informed if their application has been successful or not. Successful ETA applicants are granted permission to travel to the UK. They will need to show their approved UK ETA for Solomon Island citizens at the boarding gate of their departure airport and once more while passing through border control on arrival.
There will be an appeal process available for denied applications. If an appeal fails, the applicant may still have other options. They might be able to apply for a visa to enter the UK. This is a longer and more complicated process than an ETA application.
Travelling With the UK ETA for Solomon Island Citizens
When a visitor from the Solomon Islands holds an ETA, they now have permission to stay in the UK for up to six months. They are not able to work in the country, but they can enrol on a course of study if they would like. They can travel freely between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland without needing any additional documents. However, the Republic of Ireland is an independent country, and the ETA is not valid there.
The ETA has no validity in other European countries, as the UK is not a member of the European Union or the Schengen common travel zone. Solomon Islanders who want to visit other European countries will need to check the entry requirements before beginning their journey. The EU’s own digital travel permit system, the ETIAS, is expected to come into effect in late 2023.