For many years, the UK has had a visa waiver programme in place. However, this system will soon be replaced by the new ETA programme. From the year 2024 onwards, Austrian travellers visiting the UK will need to apply for an ETA before beginning this journey. This guide gives an overview of the new ETA system and explains how it will affect Austrian travellers, as well as what to expect from the application process.
What Is the UK ETA for Austrian Citizens?
The new ETA system, which stands for Electronic Travel Authorisation, is a digital programme that will replace the current system of visa waivers. The UK is not the first country to introduce a system like this. There are already similar programmes in the United States (ESTA) and Canada (ETA), and the European Union is also working on developing its own new system (ETIAS).
Essentially, the ETA is a digital permit that grants the holder permission to enter the United Kingdom. It is not the same as a visa, as the ETA application process is quicker and simpler than that of a visa. It is being introduced as part of the British government’s programme to digitalise the country’s borders. With the ETA system in place, the government will have greater oversight over entries and departures, allowing them to screen out undesirable visitors more effectively.
Who Needs to Apply for an ETA?
Under the current system, citizens of 92 countries can enter the UK without a visa. Travellers from these countries, which includes Austria, will need to apply for an ETA if they wish to visit the UK after the new system comes into effect.
Austria is a member of the European Union and enjoys freedom of movement with other EU member states. As the United Kingdom is no longer part of the EU, it is not affected by freedom of movement. Austrian citizens will need to apply for an ETA if they would like to visit the UK, along with citizens from other European countries.
ETA applicants may be travelling for a number of different reasons, including:
• Business trips
• Short-term courses or study programmes
• Visiting friends or family
• Medical treatment
With a valid UK ETA for Austria, a traveller can stay in the country for up to six months. They cannot work while in the United Kingdom. Those who wish to stay for a longer period of time, or to work in the country, will need to go through a separate visa application process, just as they do presently.
Applying for the UK ETA for Austrian Citizens
Until the system takes effect, information about it is limited. However, the government has released some details about the planned programme, giving travellers an idea of what to expect.
Before travelling, visitors are advised to look at the published list of requirements for the ETA. While this may be subject to change, it gives a general overview of what travellers will need, including:
• A valid biometric passport from one of the countries on the eligibility list.
• A recent digital photo that meets the criteria for a passport photo.
• personal information. This will include data such as date of birth, employment information, contact details, etc.
• The reason for the traveller’s visit to the UK.
• Some details about the planned trip to the UK, such as address while in the country.
• A debit or credit card for paying the ETA application fee.
• Information about any criminal history or past transgressions.
The final data point is very important. Applicants will need to disclose if they have a criminal record, committed any immigration offences and if they are or have ever been a member of a proscribed organisation or group. These questions are being introduced for security reasons. Applicants who are deemed to be a security risk to the UK will have their ETA application denied.
The ETA application process is only available online. This is a digital system, so no paper-based alternatives will be available.
Processing the UK ETA for Austrian Citizens
There is a non-refundable fee attached to the ETA application. This must be paid in full as part of the application process. Until the fee has been paid, an application is considered incomplete and will not be processed.
Travellers should allow sufficient time for the ETA to be processed before beginning their journey. Processing time is expected to take up to 72 hours, which travellers will need to take into account. They should be able to show an approved ETA when they reach their departure airport, port or station. Carriers may make the ETA a condition of carriage, so passengers who arrive at the airport without one will not be permitted to board.
Possessing an approved ETA will be a requirement, regardless of how a traveller intends to enter the United Kingdom. While most visitors to the UK fly to the country, it is also possible to arrive by boat, train or car. Passengers travelling through the Channel Tunnel from France will need to show their ETA before they can enter.
On arrival in the country, passengers will once again be expected to show their completed UK ETA for Austrian citizens.
Travelling With the UK ETA for Austrian Citizens
A traveller with a completed UK ETA for Austrian citizens can move freely around the United Kingdom, spending up to six months there. The UK has four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There are no internal border controls, so visitors can travel between these four countries as they wish, using whatever means of transport they choose. No further forms will be needed.
Austrian citizens have freedom of movement within the European Union. The UK’s only land border is with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state, so Austrians can enter that country freely. They can also cross from the UK to France without any further permits.
Austrians in the UK
There are over 300,000 visits from Austria to the UK each year. These visitors are coming to the UK for the purpose of tourism. Other visitors also travel to the UK on business trips or to study. The UK has long been a popular destination for those who wish to study the English language more in-depth.
Historically, many of the UK’s Austrian migrants came from the Jewish community and fled to the United Kingdom during the 1930s. This led to Austrian communities in London neighbourhoods, such as Golders Green. Today, there are approximately 20,000 Austrian migrants in the UK. The largest groups are in London and the South East. Because of this, many Austrian citizens often travel to the UK to visit family and friends.