Following the withdrawal from the European Union and a need for greater visibility of immigration, legislation in accordance with the UK Nationality and Borders Act 2022 will introduce a new travel permit from 2024 onward.
The permit is an electronic travel authorisation (ETA) and is universal to all travellers from eligible countries that have previously enjoyed a visa waiver.
This article will explain all of the important information for UK ETA for Slovakian citizens who are planning to make a visit to the UK from 2024 onwards, including how they will be affected by the new rules and how to make an application.
What Is the UK ETA for Slovakian Citizens?
Under the new legislation, all UK borders are set to become fully digitalised from 2024, with the UK ETA acting as a form of permit that grants travel entry into the four countries of the United Kingdom; England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The UK ETA is a digital permit similar to the USA ESTA and Canadian ETA. The rollout schedule shows the new system is expected to be fully completed by the end of 2023.
The ETA does not replace the existing UK visa system. There will be no change for all countries whose citizens have always required a visa to visit the UK.
At the time of writing, there is a list of 92 countries whose citizens have been designated as needing to apply for a UK ETA, and Slovakia is one of these. The entire list of ETA-eligible countries can be viewed here.
A UK ETA for Slovakian citizens covers all reasons for short-term travel, including tourism, education, business, medical treatment or visiting friends and family. The ETA will be applicable to all methods of legal travel into the UK, meaning that all airports, seaports and Eurostar train ports will be covered by the new digitalised system.
How Will the New System Affect Slovakian Citizens?
Under the previous legislation and as a member of the European Union, Slovakian citizens planning to travel to any of the UK’s four countries were not required to apply for a visa. This was provided that the period of time they intended to stay in the country did not exceed 6 months and that they met the standard visitor requirements.
Entry to the United Kingdom was a simple case of showing your passport or national identification card. Now no longer part of the EU, the UK has introduced its own sovereignty over border control with the ETA.
What Is the Application Process for an ETA?
Although subject to change, sufficient details are already known about the new ETA system, giving Slovakian travellers a good idea of the application process.
Every traveller on an ETA requires the following:
• A valid biometric Slovakian passport.
• A recent passport photograph in digital format.
• A valid email address.
The application is a digital form, which means it must be completed online. There is no process allowing travellers to submit an application in person or mail in a paper form by post.
The online form requires the following information:
• Personal details of full name, date of birth and current residential address.
• Passport details of number, date of issue and country of issue.
• Employment details, including name, address and contact details of their employer.
• Travel details, including the purpose of the visit and the address to be used whilst in the UK.
Alongside this information, all applicants will be asked to disclose certain pieces of personal information regarding immigration history, any dual nationalities or citizenships, criminal record history, drug history and health status. Any affiliation to or association with groups proscribed by the UK government also needs to be declared.
This information will be checked against national and international databases used by UK border forces, as well as other government home office departments, to assess whether applicants pose a risk to the security of the UK. This may result in the denial of an ETA.
How Is the ETA Application Processed?
ETA applications need to be accompanied by a non-refundable payment made by credit or debit card. Applications that are submitted without an accompanying payment will not be processed.
The processing time for an application is expected to be 48 to 72 hours, but this is not a guarantee. That means the wait can sometimes be longer, depending on application levels.
In order to avoid disappointment, it is recommended that an application for a UK ETA for Slovakian citizens is made well in advance of the intended travel date.
It is advisable not to book travel tickets until an ETA application is approved. In the event an ETA application is denied, you may still be granted a visa upon application in the usual manner.
How Will an ETA Affect the Entry Process?
An approved ETA is in the form of a digital permit linked to a passport.
Details then get logged on existing Advanced Passenger Information (API) databases used by all carriers (air, sea and land) who will be able to see:
• First, middle and surnames
• Passport number
• Passport expiry
• Passport issuing country
The onus is on carriers to ensure that every passenger boarding a plane, ferry, or train has the correct permits to enter the UK and that the information on their travel documents matches the ETA data.
Please note that even beyond this check, an ETA does not guarantee entry. If a border official believes a traveller, even with a relevant ETA, is not admissible under UK law, they will not be allowed in.
What Time Period Does the ETA Cover?
There is only one type of ETA, and it is valid for 180 days from the date of issue and gives the holder freedom of travel throughout the United Kingdom.
It remains valid for this period unless it is attached to a passport that expires before the end of the six months.
Visitors from any of the 92 listed countries, Slovakia included, will not be allowed to remain in the UK upon the expiration of their passport, regardless of how long is left on their UK ETA permit.
If any Slovakian citizen were to find themselves in the UK on the expiration of their ETA, a new ETA application would need to be made immediately. In some cases, this could lead to having to return to Slovakia in order to wait for readmittance.
If you would like more information about the reasons for the introduction, application and process of the UK ETA for Slovakian citizens, please visit the frequently asked questions section.