In 2024, Australian citizens traveling to the United Kingdom UK) will be required to obtain a UK Electonic Travel Authorization (ETA). It is a new digital permit that is mandatory for citizens of countries who can travel to England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland without a visa for short trips. This includes Australian citizens.
Here is a comprehensive guide to help Australian citizens navigate the new ETA system and obtain one before their UK visit. It includes requirements, application process, travel expectations, and more.
Why is the UK ETA being introduced for Australian citizens?
The UK is digitalizing its borders, and the UK ETA system aims to enhance its security. It can assist in preventing illegal immigrants and organized crime syndicates from entering the UK. Additionally, the ETA helps identify threats to national security before they enter the country.
The UK ETA is also designed to improve border control and streamline the immigration process for pre-verified, low-risk travelers.
For Australian citizens, the UK ETA presents benefits that include the following:
- It is quick and easy to apply and get an approved ETA.
- It is reasonably priced compared to similar digital travel permits other countries impose.
- You only need to apply for an ETA every two years, not every time you visit the UK.
How the UK ETA system will affect Australian travelers
The UK ETA is comparable to Australia’s own Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). While Australia’s ETA is equivalent to a visa, the UK’s ETA is not.
Once the UK ETA is open to serve Australian citizens in 2024, they must apply and receive an approved ETA before traveling to the UK. It is required for non-visa nationals whether arriving on a flight, on a ship (e.g., as part of a cruise), or over land, such as through the rail tunnel connecting Britain with France.
A UK ETA is valid for the following travel purposes:
- Short-term stay of less than six months (180 days) for tourism, short-course study, visiting friends and family, and permitted business activities and medical treatments.
- Short-term stay for up to three months (90 days) on the Creative Worker visa concession
- Transiting through the UK (i.e., changing planes), whether or not passing through UK border control
To be eligible for an ETA, Australians must meet the following conditions:
- Be a national of a country that has a visa-waiver status with the UK. Australia is included in the list of countries whose citizens need an ETA to travel to the UK.
- Have a biometric passport valid for at least six months beyond the intended departure date from the UK.
- Do not intend to stay, work, or study in the UK for longer than six months.
- Do not have a criminal record and past immigration breaches in the UK or elsewhere.
Regardless of age, all travelers must obtain an ETA before traveling to the UK. Parents and guardians can apply for an ETA for their children and infants.
Individuals with a criminal record, a history of immigration breaches, or a prison sentence over 12 months in the UK or elsewhere may not be eligible for an ETA. They may need to apply for a visa instead.
The new ETA system won’t affect Australian citizens who plan to stay in the UK for more than six months or work/live there permanently. They will still need an appropriate UK visa.
Requirements to apply for a UK ETA for Australians
Australian citizens eligible for a UK ETA must prepare the following application requirements:
- A biometric passport issued by Australia, whose citizens do not need a visa to travel to the UK for short trips.
- A recent digital passport photo
- A valid email address
- A working electronic payment method, such as credit or debit card, Apply Pay, or Google Pay
Applying for UK ETA for Australian citizens
Australian citizens can apply online for an ETA through the official UK government website or app. Completing the UK ETA application takes only a few minutes. It is entirely online or paperless, so there is no need for in-person visits to consulates or visa offices.
Before applying for an ETA, ensure all the requirements and information. Here’s a step-by-step guide for Australians to apply.
- Upload or take a photo of the passport you will use to travel to the UK. Ensure you include the picture and the two lines of numbers and letters at the bottom.
- Upload a recent passport photo or take a photo using your device’s camera, if it has one. Images should be saved as a jpeg file or with the file extension .jpg. Children aged nine and under will not need to upload a passport photo.
- Fill in all the required information. These include personal information (i.e., name, birth date), passport details, employment details, home address, and contact information.
- Answer questions on security and eligibility. Like any other UK visitor, Australian ETA applicants must truthfully disclose criminal records, past immigration offenses, and any associations with or membership in any unlawful or illegal groups or organizations.
- Pay for the UK ETA application online. A UK ETA application costs £10 each. To complete the application, you must pay the fee online using a credit or debit card, Apple Pay, or Google Pay.
After submitting your UK ETA online application, you will receive a confirmation through the email you provided.
Tips for applying for a UK ETA for Australians
To avoid common mistakes, follow these guidelines for a swift and efficient UK ETA online application.
- Provide or capture clear, high-quality photos of your passport and yourself. Ensure the images comply with passport photo specifications and are in full color without filters or effects.
- Make sure you provide correct data and are as accurate as possible. Giving false or incorrect information and even withholding information could result in delays or your application being denied.
- Check beforehand if your online payment method works and if you have enough funds to pay for the application online.
- Be sure to review and double-check your application details before you submit.
Processing and receiving your ETA
Upon submission of a UK ETA application, the system will cross-verify the details submitted against several security databases to check if the applicant is qualified for an ETA.
An ETA application decision is typically sent to the applicant’s email address within three days (72 hours) of submission. While some travelers receive an immediate decision, others may wait more than three days.
Australian citizens are recommended to apply for a UK ETA before booking their travel to the UK to prevent delays.
If your ETA was denied, you may submit a new ETA application and pay the fee again. If you do so, you must first address why you were refused an ETA in your previous application.
Individuals denied an ETA for travel to the UK do not necessarily mean they cannot visit the country. One may still apply for an appropriate visa to travel to the UK. However, obtaining a UK visa involves a more complex process and may take longer than getting an ETA. It is essential to adjust your travel plans accordingly.
Traveling with a UK ETA for Australian citizens
A UK ETA is digitally linked to an individual’s passport. It is valid for two years, allowing multiple short visits, each lasting a maximum of six months per visit. You must apply for a new ETA after the permit or your passport expires, whichever comes first, to continue being allowed to travel to the UK.
Departure to the UK
Since it is an electronic document, you don’t need to bring a physical copy of your ETA. For Australian travelers with multiple passports, make sure you travel to the UK with the same passport you used in your application.
Before boarding your plane, ship, or train, carriers will check if you have the appropriate permission-to-travel document by scanning your passport. They will only allow boarding to UK-bound Australian travelers who can present an approved UK ETA or visa.
Arriving in the UK
An approved UK ETA does not ensure permission to enter the UK. Upon arrival, Australian citizens with an approved ETA must still submit their identity documents to the UK Border Force or go through an ePassport gate, if available.
They must also be prepared to show proof of onward travel or a ticket to leave the UK within six months of arrival. If asked, travelers with an ETA must also be ready to evidence their financial capacity to support their stay in the UK and their journey home.
Even if you have an ETA, you may still be refused entry into the UK if you fail a border check or do not meet other entry conditions.
Once past the border security, Australian citizens with an approved ETA can freely travel between the UK’s constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Within the UK’s four constituent countries, Australian visitors can travel using different modes of transport, such as trains, ferries, and local flights. Before boarding a ferry or an internal flight within the UK, they only need to present an ID, usually a passport or driving license.
A UK ETA is not valid in Ireland or other European Countries.
A UK ETA does not allow entry to the Republic of Ireland, a separate country, and other European nations. The UK is not a member of the European Union or the Schengen Common Travel Zone.
Australians who want to visit Ireland or other countries in Europe must inquire about the country’s entry requirements before booking their travel.
For more information on the UK ETA, travelers can check the ETA FAQ page.