What is the UK Nationality and Borders Act 2022?

| August 5, 2022
UK Nationality and Borders Act 2022

Priti Patel, the UK Home Secretary, recently announced plans for the introduction of a more secure border crossing system. The Home Office is ready to start testing a digital system that would allow approved passengers to pass through automated border screenings when entering the UK, without any need for interacting with Border Force officers. The new electronic system aims to speed up the border crossing process for legitimate travellers while making it more difficult for those who are deemed security or immigration threats.

What is the British Home Office planning for Border Control?

The most important part of the transformation process will involve launching a comprehensive requirement that all foreign travellers to the United Kingdom have to get permission for their visit before the start of their journey.

At the moment only a relatively small number of travellers are allowed to visit the UK for short periods without a visa. The downside of this is that UK law enforcement and border control have less time and information at their disposal to assess the risk potential of a visitor before he or she arrives in the country.

Via the Nationality and Borders Bill, the government now plans to eliminate the gap that presently exists in advance permissions by launching an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) scheme. Generally speaking, this scheme will be aimed at travellers who are visiting the country or passing through and who under the current system do not require a visa or who don’t yet have an immigration status before commencing their journey.

The proposed ETA system will give Border Control better control of the country’s borders, enabling it to identify and block high-risk visitors from entering the United Kingdom while at the same time giving carriers and individuals more peace of mind at an earlier stage about whether or not they will be allowed to enter the UK. The USA, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand already use similar systems.

How does the UK Government plan to introduce the new ETA system?

The groundwork for setting up and introducing the ETA scheme will be done via the Nationality and Borders Bill. This will enable the Secretary of State to draw up Immigration Rules for administering the ETA system. Among others, these rules could include the following:

  • Setting out who will be required to submit such an application
  • The information that is required in the application
  • The validity period and other aspects of the ETA
  • On which grounds an ETA application can be refused or an existing ETA cancelled

Apart from these rules, the Nationality and Borders Bill will also criminalize using deception as a means of trying to get an ETA.

If such a request is received, the Bill will also authorize the Secretary of State to manage an ETA system on a Crown Dependency’s behalf. It could also allow him or her to publish regulations to recognize an ETA that such a Crown Dependency has issued.

To ensure the maximum effectiveness of the planned ETA system, the carrier will have to check and confirm a would-be visitor’s permission to travel to the UK before his or her journey to the country starts. Because of this, the Government plans to change section 40 of the Immigration and Asylum Act of 1999 to encourage carriers to check beforehand whether a traveller has an ETA or other kind of authorization to enter the UK (for example, their immigration status in electronic format or a visa). Failure to do so will come with the risk of a civil penalty.

Who will have to apply for an ETA before visiting the United Kingdom?

The Electronic Travel Authorization system is meant for citizens of foreign countries who are currently able to enter the United Kingdom without a visa and also non-visa nationals. The list of countries must still be finalized, but it is expected that visitors from the following countries will have to apply:

EU nations requiring a UK ETA

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden.

Other European nations requiring a UK ETA

Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, Switzerland, Vatican City

Other visa-exempt countries that will require an ETA

Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, United States of America.

ETA Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What will the cost of an ETA be?

A. The precise details of the ETA system, including the cost involved with an application, will be announced by the Government at a later date.

Q. Will EEA citizens have to apply for an ETA?

A. Definitely. It is part of the Government’s plan to require that all EEA citizens should be approved for an ETA before they can travel to the United Kingdom.

Q. When does the Government plan to introduce the ETA scheme?

A. At this stage the plan is that the system should be fully operational by the end of 2024.

Q. What will happen if I turn up at the UK border without a valid ETA?

A. For the system to work the way it is intended, carriers will have to check and confirm an individual’s permissions before his or her journey starts. Carriers will have to make sure that a traveller has the right type of travel authorization in digital or documentary format before they are allowed to go onboard. Failure to do so will expose a carrier to penalties.

Q. How will carriers be able to check whether a traveller is permitted to travel to the UK?

A. The Government plans to make use of an API (Advance Passenger Information) system where carriers can check whether or not a prospective visitor has permission to travel to the United Kingdom. This system will respond with an electronic message that confirms the traveller’s status.

Q. How will the ETA scheme fit in with the New Plan for Immigration: Migration and Border Control Strategy?

A. The ETA scheme forms part of this plan. In fact, the New Plan for Immigration: Migration and Border Control Strategy spells out exactly how the new electronic border control system will help to improve security, streamline international travel, and ensure that the UK will remain a world leader in the field of legal migration.

Q. Will eGates continue to operate?

A. Yes. An international traveller with an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) will in fact be allowed to use eGates when entering the country. The UK Government has recently also announced that it intends to introduce a pilot plan during which the minimum age for using eGates will be reduced from 12 years to 10 years. This will help to reduce travel times for UK citizens and their families.

Q. Why did the UK Government decide on introducing an ETA scheme? What are the benefits?

A. The planned ETA scheme will make it possible for larger numbers of international travellers to use eGates. Since visitors will have Digital Customer Accounts, the process of applying for visas will be expedited and become more streamlined. The new ETA system will also mean that British authorities will know more about the travellers who are visiting the country even before they start their journeys. This will help to reduce queues at the border and at the same time boost security.