With plans in place for rollout to be completed by the end of 2024, all visitors to the United Kingdom’s four individual nations will find themselves subject to a new ETA system. Applications for an ETA need to be submitted in good time before the travel date, and this is inclusive of any travellers and nationalities that might have previously been eligible for a visa waiver.
The following article will impart the most important information to Spanish citizens who intend to make a trip to the UK after 2023, how they might be affected by the installation of the new system, and tips on how to apply for the ETA.
What Is the UK ETA for Spanish Citizens?
Home Secretary of the Conservative Government of the time, Priti Patel, announced changes to the UK Nationality and Borders Act 2022.
Under this newly enacted legislation, all UK borders will be fully digitalized, and all visitors to the UK will require a new electronic permit to gain entry for a short-term stay.
From 2024, the permit will be an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) that is similar to programmes operated in other countries like the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It is applicable to all four countries of the UK: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The process is designed to tighten up immigration and maintain control, following the withdrawal of Britain from the EU, without major interruption to smooth travel for genuine visitors.
Who Does the ETA Affect?
Prior to this legislation, many countries’ citizens were able to visit the UK without the need for a visa, just with a national identity card (for Schengen Zone countries) or passport. The changes to the Nationality and Borders Act removes the privilege of visa waiver and introduces the ETA.
This list of countries to whom the ETA applies is 92, as currently published, and Spain is included on this eligibility list. Visitors from Spain will need to submit an application for an ETA, regardless of their reason for travelling — tourism, business, education, medical treatment and visiting family and friends are all included as valid reasons.
The ETA will apply to all possible legal methods of travel into the UK from 2024 onward. This means that the digitalised system will be in place everywhere, from airports to seaports to Eurostar train ports.
How Will the New System Affect Spanish Citizens?
In the years before the new ETA system, as being from a member state of the European Union, Spanish citizens who wanted to travel to the United Kingdom did not need to apply for a visa if the length of their intended stay was of less than 6 months. This was as long as they met standard visitor requirements.
From 2024 and moving forwards, none of these previously set rules will apply, with everything moving to the requirement of an ETA permit to be able to enter the country.
What is the Application Process for an ETA?
Though there may be some minor changes before the expected rollout is completed, the application process is known.
Here is how and what is required to make an application for a UK ETA for Spanish citizens:
The ETA is a digital system, and all applications have to be made online. You cannot apply by submitting paperwork or making an application in person.
Every traveller on an ETA requires the following:
• A valid Spanish passport.
• A recent passport photograph in digital format for ease of use.
• A valid email address.
The application form will ask for the following information:
• Personal details — full name, date of birth and current residential address.
• Passport details — number, issue date and country of issue
• Employment details — name, address and contact details of their employer.
• Travel details — the purpose of the visit and the address(es) to be used while in the UK.
You will also be asked to provide further personal information. Questions will be asked about your immigration history (and whether you hold any dual nationalities or citizenships), criminal records, drug history, health status and associations with or affiliations to proscribed groups.
This information will be fact-checked against national and international databases used by UK border forces and other UK government departments. Flagged individuals may be denied an ETA.
Payment by debit or credit card is also required when you submit your application. Applications without payment will not be processed.
How Is an ETA Application Processed?
The standard length of time for processing is expected to be between 48 and 72 hours, but that can be longer depending on the volume of application traffic at the time.
Because of this, the advice for Spanish travellers is to make an ETA application as far in advance of their travel date as possible.
How Will an ETA Affect the Entry Process?
When an application for a UK ETA for Spanish citizens gets approved, the traveller will receive it in the form of a digital permit that is linked to their valid Spanish passport.
Every approved ETA is lodged on Advanced Passenger Information databases that are accessed by carriers to ensure that they can check that all their passengers have the required permits to travel to the United Kingdom. They should be checked before you are allowed to board the aircraft, ferry or Eurostar train.
Travellers who arrive at the border without an ETA will be refused entry. Also, a UK ETA for Spanish citizens does not guarantee entry. Border officials may turn away anyone they believe is not admissible under UK law.
What Time Period Does a UK ETA Cover?
An ETA will last for 180 days from the date of issue. If a passport expires before the end of the permitted six months, the ETA is invalidated. No visitor from the 92 ETA-eligible countries, including Spain, will be permitted to stay in the UK beyond the expiration of their passport, regardless of how long might be left on their ETA.
In the event that a Spanish citizen finds themself in the UK with an expired ETA, a new application will need to be submitted immediately. In certain situations, this might require returning to Spain to do so.
During the 180-day period, the ETA allows freedom of travel throughout the whole of the UK and unlimited visits.
If you intend to visit the UK for longer than six months or wish to work, you will require a visa and not an ETA.
If you require more information about a UK ETA for Spanish citizens, please visit the frequently asked questions section.