When the ETA programme comes into effect, travellers visiting the UK from Tuvalu will need to adjust to a new system. The ETA, which is set to replace the UK’s current visa waiver scheme, is set to be launched by the year 2024. Citizens of Tuvalu are among those who will be affected. Read on for a guide that explains how the ETA system works and how to apply for an ETA.
What Is the UK ETA for Tuvaluan Citizens?
The ETA, or Electronic Travel Authorisation, is a form of digital travel permit. These systems have become increasingly common in recent years, and experienced travellers may already be familiar with programmes like the United States ESTA or Canadian ETA. Like these, the UK ETA is a permit that travellers must apply for before beginning their journey instead of a visa.
The ETA will replace the UK’s system of visa waivers. It is designed as part of a wider government plan to digitalise the borders of the country. When it is launched, the government will be able to monitor the borders more effectively. It will provide greater oversight over the people entering the country and better opportunities to detect security risks.
How Will the New ETA Affect Tuvaluan Travellers?
Tuvalu, like other members of the Commonwealth of Nations, is listed among the 92 countries eligible for the ETA. These are the countries with which the UK currently has visa waiver arrangements. At present, visitors from Tuvalu only need their passports to enter the UK. When the new system comes into effect, they will additionally need to apply for the UK ETA for Tuvaluan citizens before they are allowed into the country.
Tuvaluan visitors travel to the UK for a number of different reasons. Some of these may include the following:
• Business trips
• Visits to friends or family
• Short study courses
• Medical treatment
All of these reasons are covered by the ETA. There is a single ETA application form that visitors from Tuvalu must complete, regardless of their reason for travel.
There are some circumstances in which Tuvaluan citizens will need a visa for the UK. If they want to work in the country, live there permanently, or spend more than six months there, they require a visa. This is true under the current system and will remain so when the ETA programme starts. The visa application process will be totally unchanged by the introduction of the ETA.
Applying for the UK ETA for Tuvaluan Citizens
While preparing for their trip, Tuvaluan citizens are encouraged to look at the list of requirements for the ETA application. Not all the information relevant to the application has been published yet. For example, the cost of the ETA application fee has yet to be confirmed.
The information on this list is subject to change and may be refined before the system is introduced. It gives travellers an overview of what to expect from the application process, though. The 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 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.
Part of the ETA system is designed to increase the UK’s border security. For this reason, applicants are asked to disclose information about their criminal record and any past transgressions. If an applicant is identified as a potential security risk, their application will be denied.
The ETA application must be completed online through a digital form created by the British government. The fee can also be paid online. As this system is entirely digital, there will be no paper-based alternatives made available.
Processing the UK ETA for Tuvaluan Citizens
The ETA will only be processed when the form has been correctly completed and the application fee paid in full. It is expected that processing time will take up to 72 hours.
In other countries with similar systems, carriers have made the digital travel permit a condition of carriage. This is likely to also happen in the UK, so travellers will need to complete their ETA application with plenty of time to spare. They should allow enough time for it to be completely processed before they reach their departure airport.
Passengers will need to show an approved UK ETA for Tuvaluan citizens at the boarding gate of their departure airport. If they are unable to do this, they may be denied boarding. They will also need to present the ETA when they arrive in the UK while passing through border control.
If an ETA application is denied, the applicant can attempt to appeal. If this also fails, they may have the option of applying for a visa to visit the UK instead. However, they should keep in mind that a visa application process can be much longer and more complicated than an ETA application.
Travelling With the UK ETA for Tuvaluan Citizens
After their application for the ETA has been approved, a Tuvaluan traveller has permission to enter the UK and is allowed to spend up to six months in the country. While in the UK, they can enrol on a course of study, but they are not allowed to work. They can move freely between the constituent countries of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, the ETA does not give them permission to enter the Republic of Ireland, which is an independent country.
Tuvalu is very far from the UK, so some travellers may want to extend their journey and visit other European countries. The ETA is a legal document that is only valid in the UK, which is not a member of the European Union or the Schengen common travel zone. Tuvaluans who would like to visit other parts of Europe should look into the relevant entry requirements. At present, the European Union is developing its own digital travel permit, the ETIAS, which is set to be launched in late 2023.