Before the year 2024, the UK will be implementing its new ETA scheme. This replaces the current visa waiver programme and will affect Maltese travellers visiting the UK. Read on to learn all about how the ETA system will function, what travellers need to do before beginning their journey and how to apply for your ETA.
What is the UK ETA for Maltese Citizens?
The ETA programme stands for Electronic Travel Authorisation. It is a new government scheme inspired by similar systems that have been introduced in other countries in recent years, such as the United States ESTA or the Canadian ETA. As part of the British government’s plan to digitalise the borders, it gives the authorities greater oversight over people entering the country and makes it possible to monitor potential security threats more effectively.
The ETA is not a visa. Instead, it replaces the current visa waiver system. The application process can be completed entirely online and is far simpler and faster than a visa application. Travellers who hold an ETA have permission to enter the UK and spend up to six months in the country.
How Does the ETA Affect Maltese Travellers?
As a member of the Commonwealth, Malta is on the list of 92 countries that have visa waiver arrangements with the UK. This means that Maltese citizens do not need a visa to travel to the UK. Under the current system, they do not need to complete any forms or paperwork before travelling. This will change when the ETA is introduced, as Maltese travellers will need to apply for an ETA before beginning their journey.
Many Maltese travellers visit the UK for a variety of reasons, as the two countries have strong historical ties. Some of the reasons they come to the UK include:
• Business trips
• Short-term courses or study programmes
• Visits to friends and family
• Medical treatment
Regardless of the individual traveller’s reason for visiting the UK, they will need to acquire a UK ETA for Maltese citizens. The ETA form does not change depending on the purpose of travel. It is the same for all travellers.
There are some Maltese citizens who will need to acquire a visa before coming to the UK. This includes people who want to work in the UK, spend more than six months there or live in the country permanently. The introduction of the ETA system does not alter the UK’s visa programme. Applying for a visa is completely separate from applying for an ETA.
Applying for the UK ETA for Maltese Citizens
The ETA application form must be completed online. There are no paper-based alternatives available, as this system is entirely digital.
Maltese travellers are advised to consult the list of requirements for the ETA before making their travel plans, so they can be sure they have everything they need. Some of the requirements to apply for the ETA application include the following:
• A valid biometric passport from a country on the list of eligibility.
• A recent digital passport photo.
• Personal information — this will include various data, such as date of birth, employment information, contact details, etc.
• The reason for the traveller’s visit to the UK.
• Some details about the planned trip to the UK, such as an address while in the country.
• Payment for the ETA application fee.
• Disclosure of any past criminal record, immigration offences, or membership (past or present) of a proscribed group or organisation.
The last item on this list is included because the ETA is partially designed as a security system. Travellers who are flagged up as potential security risks to the UK will have their applications rejected.
This information is not yet finalised and may be subject to change until the ETA system is introduced. However, while some minor details may be altered, it provides travellers with a general overview of what to expect from the application form.
As part of the application process, applicants must pay a fee. The price has yet to be finalised, but this fee is non-refundable and must be paid in full before the application can be processed.
Processing the UK ETA for Maltese Citizens
Travel carriers have the United States ESTA and Canadian ETA as a condition of carriage, so they are expected to do the same with the UK ETA. This means that passengers will need to complete their application before they begin their journey. If a passenger cannot show a UK ETA for Maltese citizens at their departure airport, they could be denied boarding.
It is expected that an ETA application will take up to 72 hours to be processed. Travellers should keep this in mind when making their application and ensure they have plenty of time for their application to be processed before they start their journey.
If a traveller’s ETA application is denied, they will not be able to enter the UK. They have a few options, though. First, they can appeal the decision. Appeals may be rejected. In this case, applicants should apply for a visa instead. This is a longer and more complex process.
Travelling With the UK ETA for Maltese Citizens
After their ETA application has been approved, Maltese citizens can spend up to six months in the UK. They cannot work there, but they can enrol in courses of study, and they can move freely around the country. There is no border control between the four nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which means Maltese travellers with an ETA can move between these areas as they wish.
Maltese Citizens in the UK
Malta was a British colony until the year 1974, and it remains a member of the Commonwealth. Until 1962, there were very few restrictions on Maltese migration to the UK. This resulted in a series of waves of migrants, and there remains a large Maltese diaspora in the country today. Although many Maltese migrants later returned to their home country, there is still a strong presence in the UK. In 2001, the census found over 30,000 Maltese-born people in the UK, and there are also many British citizens of Maltese descent.
Because of the historical ties between the two countries, thousands of Maltese citizens visit the UK each year. In 2019, there were over 190,000 visitors from Malta to the UK. In addition to tourism, many Maltese visit the UK to see friends or relatives who live there. As Maltese citizens speak English, the UK is also a popular destination for university students. Malta’s reciprocal health agreement with the UK, which has remained in place even after the UK’s departure from the European Union, means that some Maltese travel for medical treatment. All of these travellers will need a UK ETA when the new system comes into effect.