When the UK implements its new ETA programme, millions of travellers will be affected. The system of digital travel permits is set to come into effect by the year 2024, replacing the UK’s current visa waiver scheme. Samoan visitors are among those who will need to apply for an ETA before they are allowed to enter the UK. Read on to learn about the new system, how it works and how to apply for an ETA.
What Is the UK ETA for Samoan Citizens?
Digital travel permit systems are becoming more common in countries around the world. Experienced travellers may already be familiar with these programmes, which include the ETA in Canada and the ESTA in the United States. The forthcoming ETA scheme is the UK’s version of a digital travel permit. It has been designed as part of a government programme to digitalise the borders. It allows greater oversight and control over entries to the country. In turn, this will improve security.
The ETA is being introduced as a replacement for the visa waiver programme currently in place in the UK. It is not a visa. Rather, it is a travel permit. When an ETA is issued to a visitor, they have permission to spend up to six months in the UK.
How Will Samoan Travellers Be Affected?
Samoa is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. This means that it is included on the list of 92 countries with which the UK has visa waiver agreements. At the moment, Samoan travellers do not need any extra documents to enter the UK except their passports. This will change when the ETA system comes into effect. Going forward, Samoans will need to apply for an ETA before they can travel to the UK.
There are many different reasons why Samoans choose to visit the UK. Some of these include:
• Business trips
• Courses of study
• Visiting friends and family
• Medical treatment
The UK ETA for Samoan citizens is a “one size fits all” system that covers all these reasons and more. All Samoans who intend to travel to the UK for a period of fewer than six months will complete the ETA application form, which remains the same, regardless of the reason for their journey.
Many Samoans have a New Zealand passport. They will also need to apply for an ETA under the new system.
The ETA system has no impact on the UK’s visa programme. Some Samoans currently require a visa to travel to the UK. This will not change, and they will still need a visa when the new system comes into effect. Samoans who require a visa for the UK include those who want to live permanently in the country, those who plan to spend more than six months there and those who would like to work in the UK.
Applying for the UK ETA for Samoan Citizens
Travellers will need to apply for the ETA by completing an online form. There is also an application fee to be paid, which can be done online. As the ETA is part of a digital system, there will be no offline alternatives made available.
Some information about the ETA requirements has been released. This may still change, as the system has not yet been finalised. Not all details have been confirmed. For example, the price of the application fee has not yet been announced. Other requirements may be subject to change prior to the introduction of the programme.
Although this information may not be final, it is still worth looking at, as it prepares travellers for what to expect from the system. Some 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 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 intended to improve the security of the UK’s borders. For this reason, travellers are asked to disclose information about criminal records, etc. Applicants with connections to organised crime, terrorist organisations or gangs may have their applications denied, as they are considered to be a security risk.
Incomplete applications will not be processed. The fee must also be paid in full before processing can begin.
Processing the UK ETA for Samoan Citizens
The UK ETA is likely to be made a condition of carriage. This has happened in other countries with their own digital travel permits, and carriers can deny boarding to passengers who do not have a permit. With this in mind, it is important that Samoans travelling to the UK complete their ETA application with plenty of time. It must be fully processed and approved before they reach their boarding gate.
The ETA processing time is much faster than a visa. It can take up to 72 hours to be processed. Travellers will then need to show their approved UK ETA for Samoan citizens at the boarding gate of their departure airport and once again at border control in the UK.
There will be a system of appeals available for rejected ETA applications. If an appeal is denied, a traveller may have the option of applying for a visa instead.
Travelling With the UK ETA for Samoan Citizens
A Samoan citizen with an approved ETA has permission to enter the UK and stay there for up to six months. During this time, they can enrol on courses of study, but they cannot work. Travellers can move between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the UK’s four constituent countries, as they wish. The ETA does not give them permission to enter the Republic of Ireland, which is an independent country.
The ETA has no validity in any country other than the UK. The UK is not a member of the Schengen common travel zone nor the European Union, so travellers cannot freely enter other European countries. Samoans who would like to visit other parts of Europe will need to look into the entry requirements before travelling. The EU’s own digital travel permit system, the ETIAS, is set to be introduced soon, which will probably affect Samoan travellers.