The UK is set to implement its new ETA programme by the year 2024. This system of digital travel permits will replace the current visa waiver scheme, affecting travellers from many different countries. Citizens of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are among those who will be covered by the new ETA. Read on for a guide to how the ETA works, how it will affect the travel experience and how to apply.
What Is the UK ETA for Vincentian Citizens?
In recent years, several countries have introduced systems of digital travel permits. Seasoned travellers may already have experience with the ETA in Canada or the ESTA in the United States. The ETA scheme is the UK’s own version. Like those other systems, it gives the government more control over the border, allowing greater oversight over people entering the country and more effective security checks. The ETA, which stands for Electronic Travel Authorisation, forms part of a larger government plan to digitalise the UK’s borders.
The ETA is replacing the UK’s current visa waiver scheme. It is not a visa. Instead, it is a digital travel permit that gives holders permission to enter the UK and spend up to six months there.
How Will Vincentian Travellers Be Affected?
Like other members of the Commonwealth, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is included on the list of 92 countries with which the UK has visa waiver agreements. At present, Vincentian travellers only require a passport to enter the UK. The incoming system will change this, obliging them to obtain additional documentation in the form of the new ETA.
Vincentian travellers have many reasons for coming to the UK. As a Commonwealth member, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has strong ties with the UK, and many Vincentians have family or friends living there. Reasons they travel may include:
• Business trips
• Courses of study
• Visiting friends and family
• Medical treatment
No matter what their reason for visiting the UK might be, travellers will need to apply for the UK ETA for Vincentian citizens. The process is the same for all travellers, with just one application form to complete, regardless of the reason for travel.
The introduction of the ETA will not have any impact on the UK’s visa system. This means that Vincentians who currently need a visa to come to the UK will still require one after the new programme is introduced. Vincentians who need a visa for the UK include those who intend to work there (whether temporarily or permanently), those who want to live in the country, and those who plan to spend more than six months there. The visa application system is totally separate from the ETA and will not be changed by the new scheme.
Applying for the UK ETA for Vincentian Citizens
To apply for the ETA, travellers will need to complete an online form. The ETA is part of a digital programme, so offline alternatives will not be made available. The ETA application fee can also be paid online.
Before beginning their application, travellers can prepare themselves by consulting the list of ETA requirements that have been published. It’s important to note that this information may be subject to change. The programme has not yet been finalised, and some details are not yet available. For example, the cost of the application fee has not been confirmed yet. Despite this, these requirements give travellers an idea of what to expect. They 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.
One of the goals of the ETA system is to improve the UK’s border security. This is the reason why travellers are asked to disclose sensitive information about their past. If a traveller has connections to gangs, terrorism or organised crime, they may be deemed a security risk. In this case, their ETA application will not be approved.
The application needs to be carefully and correctly completed, and the application fee must be paid in full before it can start to be processed.
Processing the UK ETA for Vincentian Citizens
In other countries which have introduced their own digital travel permits, an approved permit is considered a condition of carriage. This is likely to happen in the UK, too. As such, Vincentian citizens travelling to the UK will need to apply for their ETA well in advance, allowing enough time for it to be processed before they arrive at their departure airport.
The ETA is expected to take up to 72 hours to be processed. If it is approved, a traveller needs no further paperwork. They now have permission to enter the UK. They will need to show their approved UK ETA for Vincentian citizens at the boarding gate of their departure airport and again at border control in the UK. Passengers who are unable to present an ETA may be denied boarding.
If an ETA application is rejected, travellers still have some options. There will be an appeal system in place. In the case that an appeal is denied, the traveller may be able to apply for a visa instead. This is a significantly longer and more complicated process than the ETA.
Travelling With the UK ETA for Vincentian Citizens
After a citizen of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has had their ETA application approved, they have permission to enter the UK and spend up to six months there. They cannot work in the country. During their stay, they will be able to move freely between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which are the four constituent countries of the UK. The ETA has no legal validity in the Republic of Ireland, which is an independent country.
If a Vincentian traveller would like to visit other European countries as part of the same trip, they will need to look up the relevant entry requirements. The UK is not part of the European Union or the Schengen common travel zone, so permission to enter the UK has no impact on any other countries. The European Union’s own system of digital travel permits, the ETIAS, is currently in development.