When the ETA system, the UK’s new digital travel permit programme, comes into effect, it will change the travel experience for millions of travellers. Singaporean citizens will be among those affected by the new system, which will replace the current visa waiver scheme and is set to be introduced by the year 2024. This guide explains how the ETA works, what travellers can expect and how to apply for an ETA.
What Is the UK ETA for Singaporean Citizens?
In recent years, many countries have begun to introduce systems of digital travel permits. Seasoned travellers might already have experience 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 the UK’s version. It is being introduced as part of a British government initiative to digitalise the borders of the country and allows better oversight over people entering the country, making it easier to identify potential security threats.
Like other digital travel permits, the ETA is not a visa. Instead, it is designed to replace the visa waiver scheme currently in place in the UK. The ETA application process is much simpler than a visa application and can be completed online. A traveller who is issued with an ETA has permission to enter the UK and stay there for up to six months.
How Will Singaporean Travellers Be Affected?
As a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Singapore is included on the list of 92 countries with which the UK has visa waiver arrangements. This means that holders of a Singaporean passport do not need any additional documents to enter the UK at present. This is set to change when the ETA system comes into effect. Travellers will need to apply for a UK ETA for Singaporean citizens before they have permission to enter the UK.
The UK and Singapore have a close relationship for historical and linguistic reasons. Singaporeans often choose to visit the UK for a variety of reasons. These may include:
• Business trips
• Courses of study
• Visiting friends and family
• Medical treatment
The ETA covers all of these reasons for coming to the UK. There is only one ETA application form, which all visitors will complete, regardless of their personal reason for travelling.
In some circumstances, Singaporean travellers will need to apply for a visa to the UK. This is true if a Singaporean is hoping to work in the UK, live there permanently, or stay there for a period of longer than six months. This aspect of the system is not changing. The ETA application process is completely separate from visas.
Applying for the UK ETA for Singaporean Citizens
Singaporean travellers should apply for the ETA through an online form issued by the British government. This is part of a completely digital system, so there will be no offline alternatives offered. As part of the application process, applicants will have to pay a non-refundable fee. Again, this can be done online.
Some information about the ETA requirements is available, and travellers are advised to consult it before preparing for their trip. Please note that not all details have been confirmed, such as how much the ETA application fee will cost. In general, the information is subject to change, as the ETA system has not yet been finalised. Despite this, it gives travellers an overview of what they can expect from the system and what they will need 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 an 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 relates to the security purpose of the ETA system. One of the goals of the new programme is to improve levels of safeguarding at the UK’s borders. If a traveller is considered to present a threat to the safety of the UK or its citizens, their application will be denied.
Applicants will need to complete their form in full and pay the application fee before their ETA application can be processed.
Processing the UK ETA for Singaporean Citizens
With the rise of digital travel permit systems, permits are often considered a condition of carriage. This is expected to be the case in the UK, meaning that travellers will need to complete their ETA application early. They should allow enough time for it to be fully processed and approved before they arrive at their departure airport. A traveller without an ETA may be denied boarding.
It is expected that an ETA application will take up to 72 hours to process. Once it has been processed, applicants will be informed if their application has been successful or not. Successful ETA applicants now have permission to travel to the UK. They should show their approved UK ETA for Singaporean citizens at the boarding gate and will need to present it once more while passing through border control on arrival.
There will be an appeal process for denied applications. If an appeal fails, the applicant may still have the option of applying for a visa to enter the UK, although this is a longer and more complicated process.
Travelling With the UK ETA for Singaporean Citizens
When a citizen of Singapore is granted an ETA, they have permission to spend up to six months in the UK. During this period of time, they can enrol on courses of study, but they cannot work. The UK consists of four constituent countries, which are England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. ETA holders can move freely between them. They do not, however, have permission to enter the Republic of Ireland, which is an independent country.
The ETA is only valid in the UK and has no legal validity in the European Union or the Schengen free travel zone, as the UK is not a member of either. Singaporean travellers who would like to visit other parts of Europe should look up the relevant entry requirements before they begin their journey. The European Union is currently in the process of developing its own system of digital travel permits, the ETIAS, set to be introduced in late 2023.