By the year 2024, the UK’s new ETA system will be introduced. This travel permit programme is set to replace the current visa waiver scheme and will affect travellers from many different countries, including Saint Lucia. Keep reading for a complete guide to the new ETA, including how to apply for it, what to expect from the new system and everything you need to know before you travel.
What Is the UK ETA for Saint Lucian Citizens?
Experienced travellers may already be familiar with the United States ESTA or Canadian ETA, programmes that have inspired the UK’s new ETA scheme. These systems create digital travel permits, which give the government greater control and oversight over who is entering the country. In turn, this helps to provide more security at the border. The UK ETA, which stands for Electronic Travel Authorisation, is one initiative in a larger government plan to digitalise the country’s borders. It is set the replace the UK’s current visa waiver system.
The ETA serves as a digital travel permit rather than a visa. ETA holders have permission to enter the UK and can stay in the country for up to six months. The ETA does not replace visas. Travellers who need a visa to enter the UK — for example, those who are coming to the country to work – will still need one after the new ETA system comes into effect. The ETA application is much simpler than a visa application and can be completed online.
How Will Saint Lucian Travellers Be Affected?
The UK has visa waiver arrangements in place with 92 countries. This list includes the members of the Commonwealth of Nations, such as Saint Lucia. As a result, travellers from Saint Lucia currently need nothing more than their passport to enter the UK and are not required to apply for any additional documentation. The ETA programme will change this. In the future, citizens of Saint Lucia will need to hold an ETA, as well as their passport, if they want to travel to the UK.
As a member of the Commonwealth, Saint Lucia has a strong connection with the UK, and travel between the two countries is common. Travellers from Saint Lucia have a number of different reasons for coming to the UK. These reasons may include the following:
• Business trips
• Courses of study
• Visiting friends and family
• Medical treatment
The UK ETA for Saint Lucian citizens covers all of the reasons on this list. There is a single application form that travellers must complete. Everyone will fill out the same application form, regardless of their reason for travel. With an approved ETA, Saint Lucians can stay in the UK for up to six months.
The introduction of the ETA will not affect the visa system. As such, Saint Lucian travellers who currently require a visa will still need to apply for one. For example, those who would like to settle permanently in the UK, spend more than six months there or work there (whether for long- or short-term periods) are not covered by the ETA and will need to apply for a visa. This is a totally separate process from the ETA application.
Applying for the UK ETA for Saint Lucian citizens
The ETA application form will be available to complete online. As the ultimate goal of the ETA programme is the digitalisation of the UK’s borders, there will be no offline versions of the form.
Before making their travel plans, visitors are reminded to consult the published list of requirements for the ETA application. This information is subject to change, as the system has not yet been finalised. Some details, such as the cost of the ETA application fee, are still pending confirmation. Although these requirements may change slightly, they still give travellers from Saint Lucia an overview of what they can expect from the ETA system. Requirements include:
• 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 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 last point is important from a security perspective. One objective of the ETA system is improved safeguarding of the UK’s borders. As such, security screening is part of the application process. Travellers from Saint Lucia with past or present ties to terrorist organisations, gangs or organised crime will have their applications rejected if they are considered to threaten the safety of the UK and its citizens.
Before an application can begin to be processed, it must be correctly completed, with the application fee paid in full. This fee can be paid online with a debit or credit card.
Processing the UK ETA for Saint Lucian Citizens
Airlines and other carriers are expected to make an approved ETA a condition of carriage for travelling to the UK. With this in mind, travellers should ensure that they complete their application well in advance, allowing plenty of time for it to be processed before they start their journey. They will be expected to present an approved UK ETA for Saint Lucian citizens twice — first at their departure airport and once again when they go through border control on arrival in the UK. A passenger who does not have an ETA to show officials may be denied the right to board.
An ETA application may take up to 72 hours to be processed. An appeal system will be put in place for rejected applications. If an appeal fails, the applicant may have an extra chance, as they might be able to apply for a visa to travel to the UK. This is a much longer and more complicated process.
Travelling With the UK ETA for Saint Lucian Citizens
With an ETA, a Saint Lucian citizen can stay in the UK for up to six months. During this time, they can enrol on a study course, but they cannot work. They can move freely between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the four constituent countries of the UK. However, the ETA does not give permission to enter the Republic of Ireland, which is an independent country.
The UK is not in the European Union or the Schengen common travel area, and the ETA has no validity in any other countries. Saint Lucians who would like to visit other European countries will need to consult the relevant entry requirements. The European Union is currently developing its own electronic travel permit system, known as the ETIAS.