By the year 2024, the UK will replace its current visa waiver system with the new ETA. This will affect many visitors to the country, including travellers from Panama. Read on to find out all about the new programme, what to expect when you travel and how to apply for an ETA.
What Is the UK ETA for Panamanian Citizens?
The new ETA programme, which stands for Electronic Travel Authorisation, is being introduced as a replacement for the current system of visa waivers. This system, which forms part of a British government plan to digitalise the country’s borders, is based on similar schemes already in use in other countries, such as the ESTA in the United States or the ETA in Canada. It gives the government more ability to monitor people entering the country, have greater oversight over travellers and identify security risks.
The ETA is not a visa — it is a digital travel permit. Travellers who currently require a visa to enter the UK will still need one and will not be affected by the new system.
How Will Panamanian Travellers Be Affected?
Panama is on the list of 92 countries with visa waiver arrangements with the UK. Citizens of these countries do not need a visa to enter the UK and can spend up to six months there without any form of paperwork except their passport. This will change when the new programme is introduced. Travellers will need to apply for the new UK ETA for Panamanian citizens, or they will not be allowed to enter the country.
Many Panamanians come to the UK for a holiday. This is not the only reason they travel, though. Their reasons for visiting the UK may include the following:
• Business trips
• Courses of study
• Visiting friends and family
• Medical treatment
All Panamanians who want to spend less than six months in the UK, regardless of the reason for their trip, will need to apply for an ETA. The application process does not change based on the reason for travel. Travellers from Panama who hold an ETA can then visit the United Kingdom for up to six months.
Panamanians who currently require a visa for the UK will still need a visa under the new system. This includes those who plan to work in the country, permanently live there or spend more than six months there. The ETA programme is completely separate from the system of visa applications, and the process of applying for a visa will not be affected by the introduction of the new ETA scheme.
Applying for the UK ETA for Panamanian Citizens
Panamanians who want to travel to the UK will need to complete the ETA application form. This is only available online, as the ETA system is designed to be completely digital. While applying, Panamanians will also need to pay an application fee. Again, this can be paid online using a debit or credit card.
At present, some information about the requirements for the ETA application is available. This information is incomplete in some areas. For example, the price of the ETA application fee has not yet been confirmed. Some details may also be subject to change before the system is finalised. Nevertheless, Panamanian travellers are advised to look at the current list of requirements, which will give them an idea of what the system will be like. Some of the expected requirements include 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 on the list is crucial for the security element of the ETA. A major reason for the introduction of the new system is to improve the safeguarding of the UK’s borders and identify travellers who might pose a threat to the country or its citizens. Travellers who are flagged up as potential security risks will have their applications denied.
Applicants need to complete the form and pay their fee in full before their application can be processed.
Processing the UK ETA for Panamanian Citizens
In other countries with similar digital travel permits, carriers have made an approved permit a condition of carriage. This is likely to happen in the UK, too. Travellers should prepare for their trip by applying for the ETA well in advance. If they reach their departure airport and cannot show an approved UK ETA for Panamanian citizens at the boarding gate, it is possible that they will be denied boarding.
The ETA application is expected to take up to 72 hours to process. If it is approved, travellers do not need any more paperwork for their trip to the UK. They will have to show their ETA at their departure airport and again when they arrive in the country.
If an ETA application is denied, the applicant has some options. They might be able to appeal the decision. They also have the chance to apply for a visa instead. Visa applications are more complicated than ETA applications and will take significantly longer to process.
Travelling With the UK ETA for Panamanian Citizens
With an approved ETA, Panamanians can enter the United Kingdom and stay there for up to six months. They cannot work while in the country, but they can enrol in courses of study if they wish. The four constituent countries of the UK, which are England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, do not have any border control separating them. This means that Panamanian holders of an ETA can move between the four nations, using whatever means of travel they prefer, without needing more paperwork. However, the Republic of Ireland is an independent country, and the ETA is not valid there.
If a traveller from Panama wishes to visit other parts of the Europe Union, they will need to look up the relevant entry requirements in advance of their trip. The ETA gives permission to enter only the United Kingdom, not any other European countries, as the UK is not a member of the European Union or the Schengen zone of common travel. Panamanian travellers are advised to also look at the ETIAS system. This is the EU’s own version of a digital travel permit, which is currently in development and set to be introduced soon.