New travel rules are about to affect how Latvian citizens visit the UK on short stays. From 2024, the UK will bring in its mandatory ETA system. These new travel requirements mean that nationals from countries that do not need a visa to travel to the UK, like Latvia, must now apply for permission in the form of an ETA. Learn what the new ETA system means for Latvian nationals and how to apply for it in the guide below.
What Is the UK ETA for Latvian Nationals
The UK’s new ETA system launches in 2024, with a trial rollout in the year prior. The ETA, or Electronic Travel Authorisation, is a new requirement for visa-free nationals entering the UK. It effectively allows the UK to better screen and record visitors arriving in the country. It’s designed to be similar to other systems used around the world, including the USA’s ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) and Canada’s eTA (Electronic Travel Authorisation). The EU and Latvia, as well as other member states, have their own ESTA (European Travel Information and Authorisation System), which affects non-EU, visa-free travellers.
The UK’s new ETA system was launched as part of the 2022 Nationality and Borders Bill, a bill that seeks to better control and record immigration numbers. This aims to improve border security and digitise access into the country. As Latvians do not require a visa for travel to the UK on short stays, they must now apply for and receive an ETA before arriving in the country.
The new ETA system will affect 92 nationalities in total, including Latvia and all EU member states, except for the Republic of Ireland. From 2024, Latvians can visit the UK with an ETA of up to 6 months at a time. This covers tourism, business trips, reunions and other short visits. For those planning on staying longer, commencing employment, marrying or settling in the country, a visa is mandatory.
How Will the New ETA System Affect Latvian Citizens?
Latvian citizens must apply for an ETA before they commence travel to the UK. This will affect the convenience with which Latvians previously visited the UK. Where only a passport was required before, an ETA must now be applied for and received by the applicant before arrival. This changes the freedom of movement once afforded Latvians, with the UK requiring more planning than travelling throughout the EU.
Latvians may now need to apply for an ETA, but they still do not require a visa. The UK ETA for Latvian citizens works similarly to a visa waiver and consists of a short application. The Latvian applicant doesn’t need to submit physical documents or visit a visa centre; everything is done online.
Applying for a UK ETA for Latvian Citizens
Some details regarding the UK’s ETA application process are still being finalised. However, a full list of nationalities eligible for an ETA has been published, which includes Latvia and the EU. A further list of expected requirements is also known. These details are subject to change as the ETA is trialled.
Latvian citizens must begin by applying for an ETA online through the UK’s official website. This online application is designed to be completed in no longer than 10 minutes. The applicant will be asked for the following to complete the process:
• A valid biometric passport issued by an eligible country, including Latvia.
• A recent digital passport-sized photograph.
• Personal details, including full name(s), date of birth and contact details.
• The purpose and details of the applicant’s travel plans in the UK, including dates.
• A credit or debit card to pay the application fee.
The ETA also involves a disclosure form. This will ask for details regarding any criminal history, immigration offences or membership to a proscribed organisation. This must be completed and answered truthfully. Applicants with a criminal history are often required to complete a standard visa in lieu of an ETA.
Processing the UK ETA for Latvian Citizens
The ETA will only be submitted once the applicant has paid the non-refundable application fee. From here, it will take between 48 to 72 hours to process. Once the ETA has been completed, the applicant will receive a confirmation to verify that the candidate can visit the UK.
The applicant must apply with enough time before their intended travel date, at least 72 hours before they set off. They should also leave a buffer time in case of rejection or delays. An ETA is now mandatory for entry into the UK, so travel must only commence after the applicant receives their ETA. Carriers are expected to check their passengers before boarding to ensure they are legally able to travel.
Latvian travellers can enter the UK by any route with an ETA. At airports, ETAs will be accepted via eGates for streamlined border access. At ferry or car terminals, an ETA will be verified by immigration staff.
Travelling With the UK ETA for Latvian Citizens
A UK ETA is valid for visitors to all constituent countries of the UK within a 6-month period. Latvian ETA holders can freely visit England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with no additional paperwork. As EU members, they are also able to visit the Republic of Ireland without a visa. ETAs are further accepted as entry requirements of many British crown dependencies, like the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey.
Latvians in the United Kingdom
Latvian citizens are able to visit the UK with an ETA without having to apply for a visa for up to 180 days at a time. The UK and Latvia have strong historical links, particularly as a result of the Second World War. There are ample museums and attractions that attract Latvian tourists every year, from the sprawling collections of the British Museum to Stone Henge. Direct flights are available from Riga to cities across the UK, including London, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham.