The UK ETA for Japanese Citizens: A Comprehensive Guide

Japanese citizens traveling to the United Kingdom (UK) will be required to obtain a UK Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) in 2024.

ETA is a new digital travel permit that is mandatory for citizens of countries that can visit England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland without a visa for short trips. This includes citizens of Japan.

It will simplify travel to the UK for visiting family and friends of about 65,000 Japanese residing in the UK. The ETA also benefits around 115,000 Japanese citizens who visit the UK for leisure, business, or study.

This guide offers all the information on the UK ETA for Japanese citizens, including eligibility, requirements, the application process, and travel implications.

Why is the UK ETA being introduced for Japanese citizens?

The UK ETA aims to improve the security of the UK border and allow the government more control and oversight over individuals entering the country.

The system seeks to help prevent illegal immigration, thwart organized crime syndicates, and identify potential threats to national security before they even arrive on UK soil.

The ETA is also designed to improve border control and streamline the immigration process for pre-verified, low-risk travelers.

Benefits of the UK ETA for Japanese Citizens

The ETA is an electronic document that grants pre-screened non-visa nationals permission to travel to the UK. It is not a visa, so applicants can skip the complex and lengthy acquisition process.

For Japanese citizens, the UK ETA presents benefits that include the following:

Quick and easy process

Applying for a UK ETA is entirely online and paperless. Japanese applicants can complete the application in less than 20 minutes. They also do not need to visit consulates or visa offices for an in-person interview or to submit documents.

It generally takes three days to process an ETA application. Travelers will receive the decision, whether approved or rejected, via the email address they provided.

If granted, the ETA will be linked to the passport they used to apply, so there is no need to print it out.

Affordable fee

A UK ETA application costs £10 each. The price is comparable to similar digital travel permits imposed by other countries.

For instance, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) of the United States (US) costs US$21 (£17).

Australia’s electronic travel authorization (ETA) costs AU$20 (£10), while Canada’s electronic travel authorization (eTA) costs CA$7 (£4).

Once operational, the European Union’s upcoming European Travel Information Authorization System (ETIAS) will cost €7 (£6).

Long validity period

Most digital travel permits are valid for a year to five years or when the passport it is linked to expires.

The UK ETA will be valid for multiple short visits over two years. Travelers only need to apply for an ETA every two years or when their passport expires, whichever comes sooner, not every time they visit the UK.

How the UK ETA system will affect Japanese travelers

Currently, Japanese citizens do not need an ETA to travel to the UK.

However, once the system opens for Japanese citizens in 2024, they must apply and obtain an approved UK ETA before traveling to the UK.

It is required regardless of the mode of transport used, whether arriving on a flight, on a ship (e.g., as part of a cruise), or over land, such as through the rail tunnel connecting Britain and France.

A UK ETA is valid for the following travel purposes:

  • Short-term stay for less than six months (180 days) for tourism, short-course study, visiting friends and family, and permitted business activities and medical treatments.
  • Short-term stay for up to three months (90 days) on the Creative Worker visa concession
  • Transiting through the UK (i.e., changing planes), whether or not passing through UK border control

ETA Eligibility Guidelines for Japanese Citizens

To be eligible for an ETA, Japanese citizens must meet the following conditions:

  • Be a national of a country that has a visa-waiver status with the UK. Japan is included in the list of countries whose citizens need an ETA to travel to the UK.
  • Have a biometric passport valid for at least six months beyond the intended departure date from the UK.
  • No intent to stay, work, or study in the UK for longer than six months.
  • No criminal record and past immigration breaches in the UK or elsewhere.

All travelers, including children and babies, will need an ETA before traveling to the UK. Parents and guardians can apply for an ETA on their behalf.

Individuals with a history of immigration breaches, criminal convictions, or incarcerations of more than 12 months in the UK or elsewhere may be denied an ETA. These travelers should consider getting a UK visa instead.

Japanese citizens planning to stay in the UK for more than six months or to work will still need an appropriate UK visa. The new ETA system does not affect these travelers. The UK visa application and processing will also remain unchanged.

UK ETA Application Requirements for Japanese Citizens

Japanese citizens eligible for a UK ETA must prepare the following application requirements:

  • A valid biometric passport issued by Japan, whose citizens do not need a visa to travel to the UK for short trips.
  • A recent digital passport photo
  • A valid email address
  • A working electronic payment method, such as credit or debit card, Apple Pay, or Google Pay

How to Apply for a UK ETA

Japanese citizens can apply for a UK ETA through the official UK government website or app.

The UK ETA application process is entirely online and paperless, so visiting consulates or visa offices is unnecessary. It only takes a few minutes to complete once all the necessary documents and information are ready.

Below is a step-by-step guide on how Japanese citizens can apply for an ETA.

1. Upload or take a photo of the passport you will use to travel to the UK.

Ensure you include the picture and the two lines of numbers and letters at the bottom.

2. Upload a recent passport photo or take a picture using your device’s camera.

Images should be saved as a jpeg file or with the file extension .jpg. Children aged nine and under will not need to upload a passport photo.

3. Fill in all the required information.

These include personal information (i.e., name, birth date), passport details, employment details, home address, and contact information.

4. Answer questions on security and eligibility. 

Like any other UK visitor, Japanese ETA applicants must truthfully disclose criminal records, past immigration offenses, and any associations with or membership in any unlawful or illegal groups or organizations.

5. Pay for the UK ETA application online.

A UK ETA application costs £10 each. To submit the application, you must pay the fee online using a credit or debit card, Apple Pay, or Google Pay.

After completing the UK ETA online application, travelers will receive a confirmation through the email they provided.

Tips on for Applying for a UK ETA

Applying for an ETA is simple, but there is still room for errors. To avoid common mistakes, follow these guidelines for a swift and efficient UK ETA online application.

  • Provide or capture clear, high-quality photos of your passport and yourself. Ensure the images comply with passport photo specifications and are in full color without filters or effects.
  • Make sure you provide the correct data and are as accurate as possible. Giving false or incorrect information and even withholding information could result in delays or your application being refused.
  • Check beforehand if your online payment method works and if you have enough funds to pay for the application online.
  • Be sure to review and double-check the data you provided in your ETA application before you submit.

After submitting the UK ETA application, travelers can no longer amend or withdraw it. Should Japanese travelers need to correct simple mistakes in their ETA application, they can quickly do this by re-submitting the application and paying the fee again.

Processing and Receiving the ETA for Japanese Nationals

Upon receipt of a UK ETA online application, the system will cross-verify the details submitted against several security databases in the UK and worldwide to check if the applicant is qualified for an ETA.

It typically takes three days (72 hours) for applicants to receive a decision on their ETA application via the email address provided.

Many travelers receive a decision within hours of submitting their application. Still, some applications may take more than three days to receive a decision.

Japanese citizens are recommended to apply for a UK ETA before booking their travel to the UK to prevent delays or other issues.

If an ETA application is denied, the applicant can choose to complete a new ETA application form and pay the fee again. However, this is only recommended if they can establish the reason for the initial rejection and address it before doing so.

Being denied an ETA does not mean the applicant is banned from traveling to the UK. The alternative to a UK ETA is an appropriate UK visa: a Standard Visitor visa, Temporary Work visa, or Transit visa.

However, getting a visa is a more complicated and longer procedure, so adjust travel plans accordingly.

Traveling with a UK ETA

A UK ETA is digitally linked to an individual’s passport. It is valid for two years, allowing multiple short visits lasting up to six months per visit.

Japanese travelers must apply for a new ETA after two years or when their passport expires, whichever comes first, to continue being allowed to travel to the UK.

Departure to the UK

Since it is an electronic document, Japanese travelers don’t need to bring a physical copy of their ETA. 

Still, they can print it and carry the paper copy with them or be prepared to show the ETA decision email in their inbox in case of unprecedented circumstances.

For travelers with multiple passports, make sure to travel to the UK with the passport used in the application.

Before boarding a plane, ship, or train, carriers will check if travelers have the appropriate permission-to-travel document by scanning their passports. 

Carriers will only allow boarding to Japanese travelers who can present a valid UK ETA or visa.

Those still waiting on the decision on their ETA applications will also not be permitted to board.

Arriving in the UK

An ETA does not guarantee entry into the UK. Upon arrival, Japanese citizens with an approved UK ETA must still submit their identity documents to the UK Border Force or go through an electronic passport gate (eGate), if available.

Be prepared to provide proof of onward travel upon request. This typically means presenting a ticket to leave the UK within six months of arrival.

If asked, Japanese travelers must also show evidence that they have enough funds to support themselves during their entire stay in the UK and their journey home.

Travelers with a valid ETA may still be refused entry into the UK if they fail a border check or meet other entry conditions.

Once past border security, Japanese citizens with an approved ETA can freely travel between the UK’s four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Japanese visitors can use all modes of transportation within the UK, such as trains, ferries, and local flights. Before boarding a ferry or an internal flight within the UK, they only need to present an ID, usually a passport or driving license.

Important Note: A UK ETA is not valid in Ireland or other European countries.

A UK ETA does not allow entry to the Republic of Ireland and other European countries. The UK is not a member of the European Union or the Schengen Common Travel Zone.

Japanese citizens visiting Ireland or other European countries must inquire about the country’s entry requirements before booking their travel.

Travelers can check the UK ETA FAQ page for more information.