At the moment, the UK is in the process of developing a new programme of digital travel permits, the ETA. This scheme, set to be launched by the year 2024, will replace the current visa waiver system. Tongan visitors to the UK are among the travellers who will be affected by the introduction of the ETA. Read this guide to learn all about how the new travel programme will work and discover how to apply for an ETA.
What Is the UK ETA for Tongan Citizens?
In recent years, many different countries across the world have developed digital travel permits for visitors. Frequent travellers may already be familiar with some of these programmes, which include the ESTA in the United States and the ETA in Canada. Like these, the UK’s new ETA, or Electronic Travel Authorisation, will allow visitors to enter the country without applying for a visa. Instead, they will be able to enter with a digital travel permit.
The ETA is one piece of a wider British government programme to digitalise the country’s borders. When it is introduced, it will give the government greater oversight over people entering the country, allowing more effective border control and making it easier to detect potential threats to the UK’s security.
How Will Tongan Travellers Be Affected?
Tonga is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Like other Commonwealth countries, it is included on the list of 92 countries with which the UK has made visa waiver agreements. This means that Tongan citizens do not need to apply for a visa in order to visit the UK. Under the current system, holders of Tongan passports can enter the country without needing to acquire any further documents. This will change when the new ETA system is launched, as Tongans will now have to apply for an ETA before they travel.
The UK has long been a popular destination for Tongans. The two countries have historical ties, and Tonga remains a member of the Commonwealth. Tongan visitors come to the UK for a number of different reasons. These might include:
• Business trips
• Courses of study
• Visiting friends and family
• Medical treatment
Regardless of the reason for an individual traveller’s visit to the UK, they will need to apply for a UK ETA for Tongan citizens. The application form is “one size fits all”, so every applicant will use the same form, no matter what their reason for travelling might be. When they are approved for an ETA, they can stay in the UK for up to six months.
There are some circumstances in which travellers from Tonga must apply for a visa to enter the UK. The introduction of the ETA programme will not change this, and the visa application system will not be altered in any way by the new ETA. Tongans who want to work in the UK, live there permanently, or spend more than six months in the country have to apply for a visa, both under the status quo and after the ETA system comes into effect.
Applying for the UK ETA for Tongan Citizens
Tongan travellers can apply for the ETA using an online form that will be issued by the British government. As the ETA is part of a larger digital-only programme, paper-based alternative forms will not be available. The ETA application fee must also be paid online.
The online application form requires travellers to complete a number of fields with information about themselves, their backgrounds and their travel plans. Some details of these requirements for the ETA have been released, but the exact format of the application form and the wording of the questions is still subject to change. The system has not yet been finalised, so some information is not currently available. For example, it is known that the ETA will have an application fee, but the price has not been announced yet. Although this information might change, travellers should still take a look at it, as it will give them a general idea of what the application will be like. Some of the requirements include the following:
• A valid biometric passport issued by one of the countries on the eligibility list.
• A recent digital passport photo.
• Personal information. This will include data such as date of birth, employment information, contact details, etc.
• The purpose of the traveller’s visit to the UK.
• Details about the planned trip to the UK, such as an address while in the country.
• A debit or credit card for the ETA application fee.
• Disclosure of a criminal record, past immigration offences and membership (past or present) of any proscribed groups or organisations.
One of the main reasons for the implementation of the new ETA system is security. Travellers are asked to disclose sensitive information about their past so that the British authorities can readily detect potential security risks. An applicant with ties to terrorist groups and organised crime or gangs may have their application denied.
Applicants should take care when completing their forms to ensure that they do it correctly. When it is completed in full and the application fee paid, the application can move to the processing stage. Incomplete or unpaid applications will not be processed.
Processing the UK ETA for Tongan Citizens
It is expected that the ETA will take up to 72 hours of processing time. If it is successful, a traveller will not need to take any further steps. They now have permission to enter the UK and can start their journey. They should be ready to show their approved ETA for Tongan citizens at the boarding gate of their departure airport and again on arrival in the UK.
If an ETA application is denied, the applicant can go through the appeal system if they wish. Applicants whose appeals fail may be able to apply for a visa to visit the UK instead, although this is a much longer process.
The ETA is expected to be made a condition of carriage. As such, if a passenger fails to show an approved ETA at their departure airport, they may be denied boarding. With this in mind, it is extremely important that travellers organise themselves well. They will need to finish their application early, allowing enough time for processing.
Travelling With the UK ETA for Tongan Citizens
With an approved ETA, a Tongan traveller can enter the United Kingdom and stay there for up to six months. They can travel freely between the four constituent countries of the UK, which are England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The independent Republic of Ireland, with which the UK shares its only land border, is not covered by the ETA.
Tongans who wish to visit other countries will need to look up the relevant entry requirements. The UK is not in the European Union or Schengen zone, and the ETA has no legal validity in other parts of Europe.