UK ETA Refusals or Cancellations: What You Need to Know

| June 27, 2024

Non-visa nationals visiting the United Kingdom (UK) must have a UK Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) before their trip. 

Carriers, such as airlines, maritime companies, and railway operators, will only board UK-bound travelers with a valid ETA, visa, or immigration status.  

Those who applied for an ETA but are still waiting for the decision will not be allowed to board and come to the UK. The same applies to those whose UK ETA was denied or revoked.

Can you appeal a UK ETA refusal or cancellation? We have answers for you!

The UK ETA Application Process

The UK ETA application process is straightforward. Applicants must submit personal and passport details, answer security questions, and pay the £10 application fee.

Being honest and accurate in providing all the information needed is crucial. Any errors, omissions, false information, or other irregularities in the data submitted in the application can lead to delays or a denial of your UK ETA.

Authorities can also revoke or cancel an approved ETA if new information appears when travelers’ passports are scanned at the border.

While visa-exempt travelers to the UK are unlikely to be refused an ETA, travel permission can be denied or revoked on specific grounds.

Typically, an ETA application is processed in three days. Some applicants receive a decision on their ETA, whether an approval or denial, earlier than three days. Still, some applications could take longer than three days to process. 

Can you appeal a UK ETA refusal or cancellation?

ETA applicants cannot appeal against or request a review of the ETA decision they have received. This is according to the UK Government’s ETA guidance.

Once submitted, applicants cannot withdraw or amend their UK ETA application. The process is predominantly automated. Requests to withdraw or amend the application will only be considered if the application is under review.

When it is under review, a human decision-maker assesses the applicant’s eligibility for an ETA. The Home Office may contact the applicant for clarifications on their application. Applicants must respond to such notifications as quickly as possible.

Under the law, applicants have the right to request a review by a human decision-maker if a UK ETA decision is made through an automated process. 

Applicants who receive an ETA through the fully automated process have one month to request that a human decision-maker review their application. It will only be reviewed if the Home Office confirms that a fully automated process issued the decision.

However, decisions to reject an application for a UK ETA will likely always be made by a human decision-maker. Therefore, applicants who have been refused an ETA cannot request a review to overturn the decision.

ETA and judicial reviews

If an applicant strongly feels that the Home Office made a wrongful decision in refusing or canceling an ETA, “the only right of appeal against such a decision is by way of an application for judicial review.” 

This is according to the Home Office guidance on cancellation and curtailment of permissions.

A judicial review is a court proceeding that can challenge decisions made by local officials and public bodies, including the Home Office. It can also contest administrative decisions on immigration, human rights, or asylum applications.

It is important to note that a judicial review is different from an administrative review. A judicial review cannot determine whether an ETA refusal or cancellation was incorrect. Instead, it can only decide whether the process used to arrive at the decision was lawful.

Another point to consider is that a refusal or cancellation of an ETA doesn’t mean that an individual cannot enter or stay in the UK. 

An ETA is permission to travel, not a visa. Obtaining an ETA is separate from applying for and granting leave.

Those whose ETA was denied or revoked can apply for a visa to visit the UK. Alternatives to the ETA include a UK Standard Visitor visa, Transit visa, and Temporary Creative Work visa.  

Filing a judicial review

The new UK ETA system is still very much a work in progress, so there is very little information about the grounds for judicial review on an ETA refusal or cancellation, its process, or possible outcomes. 

Suppose it would be similar to a judicial review of a UK visa. In that case, claimants must apply for a judicial review within three months of the decision and grounds for the claim being released. 

The three primary grounds for making a judicial review application are illegality, procedural unfairness, and irrationality.

The claimant must have a “sufficient interest” to file for judicial review. This means the case affects the claimant directly (i.e., the applicant) or is affected by the decision (e.g., a family member). 

How to file a judicial review

Filing a judicial review in the UK involves three main stages: the pre-action stage, the permission stage, and the post-permission stage. These stages ensure a structured approach to challenging public body decisions through the legal system.

Pre-action stage

The pre-action stage involves carrying out steps before making the claim for a judicial review. 

During this stage, the claimant must first find alternative ways to resolve the dispute and acquire any information and documents needed to support the claim.

The claimant must also inform the Home Office or the public body whose decision the claimant is challenging about the claim through a letter. This public office will then have a deadline, usually 14 days, to allow them to respond to the claim. 

Only after the deadline has passed can the claimant submit the claim for judicial review. This is regardless of whether the public body responded to the claimant’s letter.

Permission stage

If the pre-action conduct does not yield satisfactory results, the second stage involves applying for permission to proceed with a judicial review. This usually takes three to six months.

Post-permission stage

If the claimant is granted permission to file the judicial review, the third and final stage is the substantive judicial review hearing. This is where the claimant’s case will be thoroughly examined.

After the hearing, a written judgment will be issued with details about the decision, whether the defendant acted lawfully, and any necessary actions.

Other options for ETA refusals and cancellations

A judicial review demands more time and resources from the claimant. Applicants whose ETA was denied can try to resubmit the application and pay the fee again, correcting any mistakes in the previously denied application. 

The other option is to apply for a UK visa. This is the most straightforward alternative for travelers who want to visit the UK even if their ETA application is refused or canceled. 

Applying for a UK visa is more complex, costs more, and takes longer, so they may have to adjust travel plans accordingly.

Still, applying for a visa could be more challenging if the ETA refusal or cancellation was due to severe grounds. In cases of grave criminal convictions, repeated immigration breaches, or ties to illegal groups, the visa application is unlikely to be approved.

Not being able to obtain a UK visa would mean the individual cannot visit the UK or transit through the country.

Overturning a rejection of a UK visa application can be difficult and depends on the gravity of the basis for the decision. 

For complex appeals and reviews of Home Office decisions, it is highly recommended to seek advice and assistance from immigration lawyers and advocates. They can help exhaust every avenue to help plead the case for the individual to be granted a UK visa.