The UK is preparing to launch its new ETA travel programme. This system of digital travel permits is set to replace the current visa waiver scheme and will be in place by the year 2024. Find out all about the new ETA in this guide, which explains how it works, what travellers can expect and how to apply for an ETA.
What Is the UK ETA for Emirati Citizens?
The ETA, or Electronic Travel Authorisation, is a new digital travel permit being introduced by the United Kingdom. It is similar to many other travel permits that have been launched in other countries in recent years, such as the ESTA in the United States or the ETA in Canada. It will replace the current visa waiver system in the UK, and travellers from the United Arab Emirates will need to apply for an ETA before they can enter the United Kingdom.
The ETA is not a visa, and the application process is far simpler and easier than a visa application. It can be completed entirely online. As part of the British government’s plan to digitalise the UK’s borders, the ETA allows better oversight over people entering the country, making it easier to monitor travellers and detect potential security risks.
How Will the New ETA Affect Emirati Travellers?
The United Arab Emirates is included on the list of 92 countries eligible for the ETA. At present, travellers from the UAE do not need any additional documentation to come to the UK. Their passport is enough for them to enter the country as a visitor. This will change when the new system takes effect. Going forward, travellers will have to hold a UK ETA for Emirati citizens, or they risk being denied entry.
The UK is a popular travel destination for Emiratis, who come for both business and pleasure. Some of the many reasons that visitors travel from the UAE to the UK include:
• Business trips
• Visits to friends or family
• Short study courses
• Medical treatment
The ETA application process is designed to be “one size fits all”, so all visitors will complete the same standardised form, regardless of their reason for travel. An approved ETA grants the traveller permission to stay for up to six months in the UK.
In some circumstances, Emirati citizens need a visa to travel to the UK. This element of the system will not change with the introduction of the ETA. Visa applications remain the same as they currently are. Emirati citizens who require a visa include those who would like to live permanently in the UK, work there, or spend more than six months in the country. The visa application process is completely separate from the ETA.
Applying for the UK ETA for Emirati Citizens
It’s a good idea for Emirati travellers to take a look at the list of requirements for the ETA application. Some information has been published already, but the system is still in development, and not all details are known. The price of the ETA application fee has not been confirmed yet, and other criteria may be subject to change. For example, travellers may need to hold a passport with a certain amount of validity beyond their travel dates.
Although this information may be subject to change, it gives travellers a good idea of what to expect from the ETA. The ETA application form will be similar to the forms used in other countries with digital travel permits. It looks likely to include various requirements, such as:
• 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.
The ETA is designed to improve the UK’s border security. This is the reason why travellers from the United Arab Emirates will be asked to disclose sensitive information about their past. Travellers may be deemed a security risk if they have ties to organised crime, terrorist groups or gangs. In this case, it is likely that their ETA application will be denied.
The ETA application must be completed online. A digital application form will be made available by the British government, and the payment for the ETA application fee will also be through an online system. Paper-based offline alternatives will not be made available, as this is a completely digital system.
Processing the UK ETA for Emirati Citizens
An ETA application can only be processed when the form has been correctly completed and the application fee paid in full. Processing time for an application is expected to take up to 72 hours.
In countries that have introduced similar systems, airlines and other carriers have made digital travel permits a condition of carriage. If this happens in the UK, travellers will need to apply for their ETA in advance, allowing enough time for it to be fully processed before beginning their journey.
Travellers should be prepared to present their approved UK ETA for Emirati citizens at the boarding gate of their departure airport. Passengers without an ETA to show airline staff may be denied boarding. In addition, as they go through border control at the airport, travellers will need to show their ETA on arrival in the UK.
Applicants will have the opportunity to appeal a denied ETA application. If this fails, they might be able to apply for a visa instead, which is a longer and more complicated process.
Travelling With the UK ETA for Emirati Citizens
Emirati citizens who hold an ETA can spend up to six months in the UK. They can travel freely between the four constituent countries of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland, which is independent, has its own entry requirements, and the ETA is not valid there.
If an Emirati traveller wants to visit other European countries, they will need to check the entry requirements first. The UK is not a member of the Schengen common travel zone or the European Union, so the ETA has no validity in any other parts of Europe. The European Union is preparing to launch its own digital travel permit programme, the ETIAS, in 2023.