At present, travelling to the UK from France is as simple as catching a train. However, that will change with the introduction of the new British ETA system. French citizens will need to apply for an electronic permit before they can travel. Find out all that you need to know about the UK ETA for French citizens in this complete guide.
What Is the UK ETA for French Citizens?
The UK’s Electronic Travel Authorisation, known as the ETA, is a new system that is being introduced by the British government in an effort to digitalise the country’s borders. Some travellers may already have experience with similar existing programmes in countries like Canada and the United States. This digital system gives the British authorities a clearer idea of who is entering and leaving the country and creates a more effective screening process to prevent security risks.
The ETA is not a visa. French travellers do not need a visa to enter the UK, and this will not change under the new system. Effectively, the ETA is a digital permit. Once granted, it gives a traveller permission to enter the UK.
How Does the ETA Affect French Travellers?
The UK has a list of 92 countries with which it has a visa waiver agreement. Citizens of these countries do not need a visa to travel to the UK, but under the new system, they will need an ETA. This list includes the member states of the European Union, such as France.
French travellers come to the UK for a number of different reasons. Those who are travelling for a short time — which is defined as less than six months — will need to apply for an ETA before beginning their journey. Their reasons for travelling may include the following:
• Business trips
• Short-term courses or study programmes
• Visits to friends and family
• Medical treatment
French citizens who want to spend more than six months in the UK or work in the country will not be covered by the ETA. Instead, they will need to apply for a visa explaining their intentions. The visa application system is completely separate from the ETA. It is longer and more complicated. There are many different types of visas available, depending on a traveller’s needs. Specific visa applications are available for young French citizens who wish to work as au pairs in the UK, which is a very common choice.
Applying for the UK ETA for French Citizens
As the ETA system has not been implemented yet, information about it has not yet been finalised. Some information has been released, but it may be subject to change. Nevertheless, it is a good idea for travellers to consult these published details, as they provide a good idea of what French citizens can expect from the UK ETA programme. Travellers should start by consulting the published list of requirements for the ETA. Requirements include:
• A valid biometric passport from a country on the list of eligibility. A Hong Kong SAR passport is acceptable, but a Chinese passport is not.
• A recent digital passport photo.
• Personal information — this will include data such as date of birth, employment information, contact details, etc.
• The reason for the traveller’s visit to the UK.
• Details about the planned trip to the UK, such as the address while in the country.
• A debit or credit card for the ETA application fee.
• Past information, including details of a criminal record, immigration offences, or membership of proscribed groups or organisations.
Part of the ETA system is designed to screen out travellers who might pose a threat to the security of the UK. The final data point allows the authorities to do this. If an applicant is flagged as a potential risk, their application for an ETA will be denied.
Travellers will need to complete the ETA application process online. This is part of a fully digital system, so paper-based alternatives will not be available.
Processing the UK ETA for French Citizens
Travellers will need to apply for the ETA, allowing enough time for it to be processed. This is expected to take up to 72 hours. An approved ETA may be made a condition of carriage, so travellers can be denied boarding if they are unable to show their UK ETA for French citizens before beginning their journey.
As part of the application, travellers will need to pay an application fee. This fee is non-refundable and must be paid in full before an application is considered complete and ready for processing.
The ETA will be required regardless of how a French traveller is entering the UK, whether they are coming by plane, ferry or through the Channel Tunnel. They will need to show it at their departure airport, port or station and again upon arrival in the UK.
ETA applications may be denied. If this happens, applicants can appeal the decision. If necessary, they may need to apply for a visa instead, but this is a much longer and more complicated process.
Travelling With the UK ETA for French Citizens
An approved ETA gives a traveller permission to spend up to six months in the UK. During this time, they are allowed to move freely between the four constituent countries of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There is no internal border control that separates these countries.
French Citizens in the UK
France and the UK have close historical ties. While the two countries have often been rivals at war, today, they have a strong relationship. French is the most commonly learned foreign language in the UK, while English is the most common in France. The close geographical proximity means that there is a lot of travel between the two countries for a variety of reasons. Even after the UK’s departure from the European Union, it remains a popular destination for French visitors.
There are over 100,000 French-born people living in the UK. The largest area with a French diaspora is the city of London. In addition, between 3 and 4 million French tourists visit the UK each year, and around 14,000 French students come to British universities. Many French travellers also come to the UK to enrol for short-term language courses or engage in business activities.