At the moment, citizens of Botswana who want to travel to the UK are covered by the country’s visa waiver programme. However, this programme will soon be discontinued and replaced by the new ETA system. This will affect Botswanan nationals travelling to the UK, as well as citizens from over 90 other countries. Read this guide to learn how the new system will affect Botswanan travellers and what to expect before and after arriving in the UK.
What Is the UK ETA for Botswanan Citizens?
The ETA, which stands for Electronic Travel Authorisation, is a new digital travel system expected to be implemented by the British government before the end of 2024. This programme is based on programmes already in place in countries like the United States and Canada. It is due to replace the UK’s current visa waiver programme.
The ETA is, essentially, a digital form that will grant visitors permission to enter the UK. It serves as a permit and will need to be shown at the airport before departure and again upon arrival. Many travellers will have to apply for an ETA, not just tourists — the system will also cover visitors who are coming to the country on a business trip, those who are visiting friends or family, students who are enrolled on courses in the United Kingdom, as well as people who are coming to the country to receive medical treatment.
How Will the New System Affect Botswanan Citizens?
Like most Commonwealth countries, Botswana enjoys a visa waiver programme with the UK. This means that, at present, Botswanan citizens can enter the United Kingdom for short periods without needing to apply for a visa. The ETA will not change this. However, it will require Botswanans to hold an ETA before they can enter the UK. It is important to note that the ETA is not a visa. The application process is far simpler and quicker than a visa application.
Once a UK ETA for Botswanan citizens has been issued, a traveller can stay in the country for up to six months. They cannot work while in the United Kingdom. If they wish to remain in the country for a longer period or they intend to work in the UK, then they will need to go through a separate visa application process.
Applying for the UK ETA for Botswanan Citizens
Before beginning the ETA application, travellers should check that they meet the eligibility criteria. Botswanan citizens are on the ETA list. They should also have a look at the published list of requirements for an ETA. This is subject to change in the future as the system comes into effect. However, the current list provides oversight into what each applicant can expect.
The ETA application form is only available online. This is a fully digital system designed to help the government achieve its goal of digitalising the borders, so there is no paper-based alternative available. When completing the form, travellers should ensure they have already prepared all necessary information, such as:
• A valid biometric passport issued by one of the countries on the eligibility list.
• A recent digital photo that meets passport photo guidelines.
• Personal information, such as date of birth, employment information, contact details, etc.
• Purpose of visiting the UK.
• Details about the planned trip to the UK, including their address while in the country.
• Payment for the ETA fee.
In addition to this information, applicants will need to disclose details about their past. ETA applicants will be asked if they have a criminal record, if they have ever committed any immigration offences, and if they are or have ever been a member of a proscribed group or organisation. If they are considered to be a security risk to the United Kingdom, their application will not be approved.
Processing the UK ETA for Botswanan Citizens
The ETA has a processing turnaround time of up to 72 hours. The form must be completed in full, and the non-refundable fee must be paid before the processing period can begin.
Many airlines and other carriers are expected to make an approved ETA a condition of carriage. Therefore, it is essential that travellers apply for their ETA with enough time for it to be fully processed before they arrive at the airport. Passengers who reach their boarding gate without an approved ETA to show the airline’s staff may be denied boarding.
If an ETA is rejected for any reason, travellers may be able to appeal the decision or go through a separate visa application process. This will take a significantly longer time, so it is something to keep in mind when making the application. Travellers will be expected to show proof of their ETA at their departure airport and once again on arrival in the United Kingdom.
Travelling with the UK ETA for Botswanan citizens
After the UK ETA for Botswanan citizens has been approved, a traveller can spend up to six months in the United Kingdom. Within the UK, they can enjoy freedom of movement. Although the United Kingdom is made up of four constituent countries, there is no internal border control. Therefore, a traveller with a valid ETA can visit England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as they wish. They can travel internally on flights, trains, ferries or by car.
The ETA is only valid for the United Kingdom. As the UK is neither a member of the European Union nor the Schengen zone, an approved ETA will have no benefits or validity for travellers who wish to visit other European countries. Those who plan to cross the border into the Republic of Ireland, take the train to France or visit any other European country as part of their trip will need to look into the relevant entry requirements and apply for any paperwork or permits separately.
Botswanan Visitors to the UK
Botswana was formerly the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland, but it gained independence in 1966. It continues to have strong ties to the UK, and its first president, the great patriot Seretse Khama, was awarded the KBE by Queen Elizabeth II. It is a small country with a population of just 2.3 million people and an exceptionally low population density, thanks to the inhospitable conditions of the Kalahari Desert.
Despite its small size, Botswana is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, largely due to its thriving diamond industry. This means that more and more Botswanan citizens are visiting the UK for business and pleasure. The UK has a small Botswanan diaspora, and membership in the Commonwealth means that relations between the two countries are friendly, so this creates a positive backdrop for visitors.