Everything You Need to Know About the UK ETA Application Process

If you plan to visit the United Kingdom (UK) soon, you might need an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA).

An ETA is the UK’s new digital travel permit required for individuals who can visit the UK without a visa. It costs £10 each and is valid for two years, allowing multiple short visits of up to six months. 

It is not a visa, so applying for a UK ETA is much simpler and faster. It is an entirely online process via the UK official government website or app. Applicants do not need to go to visa offices to apply for an ETA.

Obtaining a UK ETA is fast and easy as the process is entirely online. Here, you can learn all about the ETA application process. 

When to apply for a UK ETA

Travelers are advised to apply for a UK ETA at least three days before departure before they visit the UK. 

Applicants typically receive a decision on their ETA applications, whether an approval or denial, in around three days. Some applicants receive the decision on their ETA application earlier than three days. However, others can take more than three days. 

Travelers must have a valid UK ETA before traveling to the UK, so applying for one in advance avoids delays or other issues. 

Carriers and border officers will not let travelers board a plane, ferry, train, or vehicle bound for the UK if they do not have a valid ETA. Those still waiting for an ETA decision will also be denied boarding.

Requirements for applying for a UK ETA

As with any application process, having all the requirements ready beforehand makes it quicker and easier.

Here is a list of what you need to prepare before applying for a UK ETA:

  • A valid, biometric passport issued by a country eligible for visa-free travel to the UK. 
  • A recent digital passport photo of high quality
  • A valid email address
  • A working electronic payment method, such as a credit or debit card, Apple Pay, or Google Pay

Applying for a UK ETA

Complete the UK ETA application process promptly. Your session will expire if you are idle or inactive for 20 minutes.

If this happens, you must restart the process and fill in the required information again. The website or app does not save any previously entered or submitted data during an inactive or canceled session.

Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to apply for a UK ETA online.

STEP 1: Upload or take a photo of the passport you will use to travel to the UK.

An applicant’s passport establishes their identity and nationality. You must have a passport issued by a country that has a visa waiver status with the UK and whose citizens can travel to the UK without a visa. It must be valid for at least six months or within entry and exit from the UK. 

Ideally, the passport should be valid for at least two years to maximize the cost of a valid UK ETA.

Do not use a photocopy of your passport. Make sure the photo captures all the relevant information on your passport. This includes the entire identity page, including the picture and the two lines of numbers and letters at the bottom. 

STEP 2: Upload a recent passport photo or take a picture using your device’s camera.

It must be a clear, high-quality photo. Like a passport photo, look at the camera with your head straight and your shoulders within the frame. Remove eyeglasses if they cause glare and any head covering unless it is for religious or medical reasons.

The photo you upload should be in full color, not black and white, landscape or horizontal perspective, and without any filters or effects. Again, use an original image, not a screenshot or photocopy. It should be saved as a jpeg file or with the file extension .jpg.

The exact photo specifications are required for children aged ten and over or if you are applying for a UK ETA for someone else. Children aged nine and below will not require a scan or photo of their faces.

STEP 3: Fill in the information needed and answer security eligibility questions.

It is crucial to provide accurate and truthful answers. This includes address, work details, any other nationalities you may have, if applicable, and those related to security eligibility, such as criminal record and past immigration history. 

The online application form allows for the use of special characters, but it primarily relies on the English alphabet. Here is a list of information applicants must disclose when applying for a UK ETA.

Personal information

  • First name, middle name, and last name or surname: Applicants without a first or last name may leave the field blank or enter FNU or LNU for “First name unknown” or “last name unknown.” The middle name field is optional. Applicants without a middle name are not required to fill it out.
  • Date of birth: This is the date the applicant was born.
  • Gender: Applicants can choose from male, female, or other.

Passport information

  • Country of citizenship: The country issued the passport an applicant will use to travel to the UK.
  • Passport number: The number on the passport identity page where personal information is located.
  • Passport issuance date: The date the passport was issued to the applicant.
  • Passport expiry date: The date the passport expires.
  • Other nationalities or citizenships, if applicable: The applicant’s other passport numbers, national ID numbers, and the issuance and expiry dates of other passports or national IDs.

Contact information

  • Home address. The applicant’s home address, city, country, and postcode, where applicable.
  • Email address: The email address of the applicant or the person applying for an applicant, such as a parent or legal guardian applying on behalf of a child.
  • Contact number: The telephone or mobile number of the applicant or the person applying for an applicant, such as a parent or legal guardian applying on behalf of a child

Work information

  • Employer name: If employed, the name of the applicant’s employer
  • Employer address: The address of the applicant’s employer.
  • Employer email: The email address of the applicant’s employer
  • Employer phone number: The mobile or telephone number and country code of the applicant’s employer

Eligibility questions

  • Previous immigration history. This includes details on border permissions or visa denials.
  • Criminal history. This may include minor or significant violent and non-violent criminal offenses.
  • Terrorism activities and charges. These questions cover ties, associations, memberships, activities, and charges against terrorists or any illegal groups.
  • Health-related questions. This may include previous or existing infections, vaccinations, or other immunizations.

The ETA application form currently does not require travel details or financial requirements.

However, if asked at the border, applicants must be prepared to show proof of the length of their stay in the UK or financial capability to support themselves during their stay and journey home.

STEP 4: Pay for the application.

A UK ETA application costs £10 each and needs to be paid online to complete the application process.

To pay online, you must provide your credit card or debit card number, name on the card, expiry date, and CVV code. You can also input your Apple Pay and Google Pay details to pay for the ETA application.

STEP 5: Submit your application and wait for your UK ETA decision.

Once you have successfully paid for and submitted your ETA application, a confirmation receipt will be sent to the email address you provided.

Upon submission of an ETA application, the system will check if you supplied all the required information. 

It will then automatically cross-verify the data you provided against several security databases in the UK and worldwide to determine if you are eligible for an ETA and travel to the country.

Some applications may take longer to process as authorities need more time to verify your ETA eligibility, so check your email and keep your phone lines open. 

Guidelines for completing the UK ETA application form 

Completing an online application form is as easy as it sounds, but there is much room for errors. Mistakes or omissions in the UK ETA application, whether knowingly or not, can lead to delays in receiving a decision or refusal of your ETA application.

To avoid common mistakes:

  • Prepare the documents and necessary information before starting the application process.
  • Provide or capture clear, high-quality photos of your passport and yourself.
  • Make sure to read all the questions carefully and double-check your answers.
  • Check beforehand if your electronic payment method has enough funds and works properly. 

Once you submit your ETA application, you can no longer amend or withdraw it. 

Applicants may consider re-submitting a new application and paying the fee again. This is the quickest and easiest way to correct any errors in the application. However, this is only recommended if you can be sure you can address these errors. 

If the ETA application is denied, you should apply for an appropriate UK visa: a Standard Visitor visa, a Temporary Creative Work visa, or a Transit visa. Applying for a UK visa is more complex and takes longer, so you might need to adjust your travel plans accordingly.  

Other things to consider in your UK ETA application

If granted, the ETA is linked to an individual’s passport, so make sure you travel with the one you used in your application. 

It’s also important to note that a valid UK ETA does not guarantee entry into the UK. Travelers with an ETA must still submit to identity checks at the UK Border. They can still be turned away at the border if they fail an identity check or fulfill other entry requirements.

Travelers are also advised to avoid any legal issues before their trip to the UK. Any run-ins with the law can affect your ETA. 

Even if you have already received a valid electronic travel permit, authorities can still revoke or cancel your ETA if new information appears when your passport is scanned at the border.