The travel rules for Estonians visiting the UK are about to change. From 2024, the UK will adopt an ETA system. This new system means that nationals from countries that do not require a visa for short stays in the UK must now apply for permission in the form of an ETA. Estonians must apply online for this permit before their intended travel date. Learn what the new ETA means for Estonian nationals and how to apply for this permit in this guide.
What Is the UK ETA for Estonian Nationals
The UK is launching a new ETA system in 2024. An ETA, which stands for Electronic Travel Authorisation, is an entry requirement for all visitors entering the UK that do not require a visa. It allows the UK to screen the passenger(s) for transparency and security. For those with travel experience to the USA, this system is much like an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). Estonia and the EU are adopting a similar system, known as the ESTA (European Travel Information and Authorisation System), for non-EU, visa-free travellers.
The UK’s ETA was announced as part of its new immigration plans in 2022’s Nationality and Borders Bill. Aside from strengthening security by counting and screening visitors, the ETA is part of a digitisation drive to bring the UK up-to-date with global, digital demands. For Estonians, this means that visitors must apply for and receive permission to travel in the form of an ETA before they commence travel to the UK.
The new ETA scheme affects 92 nationalities in total. This includes Estonia among all EU states, except for the Republic of Ireland. With an ETA, Estonians can visit the UK visa-free for up to 6 months as a standard visitor for tourism or business. For those intending to stay longer or to start employment in the UK, marry or settle, a visa is required.
How Will the New ETA System Affect Estonian Citizens?
Estonian citizens will now have to apply for an ETA before they reach the UK. Where Estonians could previously visit the UK with just an ID card, they must now complete an extra application step and hold a passport. This will affect the freedom once afforded to Estonians and their movement, as they can no longer enter the country as easily as they can fellow EU states.
While this does mean more preparation and planning are required, Estonians still do not require a visa to visit the UK. Instead, the UK ETA for Estonian citizens works like a visa waiver to be completed quickly online. No physical paperwork or in-person consulate applications are required.
Applying for a UK ETA for Estonian Citizens
The ETA application hasn’t been finalised yet, but the basics are known. The UK has announced which nationals are now eligible for an ETA, and it includes Estonians. A list of requirements is also published so that visitors know what kind of information is required. These details may change as the ETA is trialled.
To begin, Estonian citizens must apply for an ETA online through the official UK site. The entire process is designed to be completed in no longer than 10 minutes with an online form. The following will be asked of the applicant:
• A valid biometric passport issued by an eligible country, such as Estonia.
• A recent digital passport-sized photograph.
• Personal details, including full name(s), date of birth, occupation and contact details.
• The purpose and details of the applicant’s travel arrangements within the UK.
• A credit or debit card to pay the application fee.
Estonian applicants must also complete a disclosure form that confirms the applicant doesn’t have a criminal history, hasn’t committed any immigration offences and is not, nor ever been, a member of a proscribed group. These must be answered truthfully. If an applicant is found to be a risk to the UK’s security, their application will be denied.
Processing the UK ETA for Estonian Citizens
The ETA will be submitted upon payment of a non-refundable application fee. It will take between 48 to 72 hours to be processed. The applicant will receive a confirmation email once their ETA is approved — only then can they enter the UK.
Given the maximum processing time of 72 hours, applicants should apply with ample time before they travel. An ETA will be mandatory to enter the UK. If an Estonian applicant has not completed or is still waiting for their ETA to be processed, they will be denied entry into the UK. What’s more, carriers are expected to check passengers to ensure they hold a valid ETA.
There are no limitations for where and how Estonians travel into the UK with an ETA, and the form can be completed online at any time before arrival. This allows for travel across Europe and entry via the various EU to UK routes. Regardless of how the applicant arrives in the UK, a valid ETA will be required at the border. Airports contain eGates for swift border access, confirming the individual’s ETA matches their biometric passport.
Travelling With the UK ETA for Estonian Citizens
A UK ETA is valid for travel throughout the United Kingdom and its four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. No additional paperwork is required for each of these countries. This also allows access to many British crown dependencies, including the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey. As EU members, Estonian citizens are also able to travel visa-free into the UK via the Republic of Ireland with an ETA. For more information, travellers can refer to the ETA FAQ page.
Estonians in the United Kingdom
Estonian citizens are granted visa-free access to the UK with an ETA valid for up to 180 days. With some 20,000 Estonians living in the UK, Estonians have a strong connection to the UK. There are plenty of attractions and activities to discover, from London to Edinburgh. Estonians have many routes into the UK, including direct Tallinn to London air links. Connecting flights or alternative road and rail routes are available via the Eurostar or ferry.