The U.K. will soon require everyone wishing to travel to the country to apply for permission, and pay for an application, in order to travel to the country.
Starting sometime by the end of 2023, the U.K. says it will put an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) system in place for all inbound international travelers outside of Britain and Ireland. The system will require travelers to put personal details, including passport information, into an application and then pay a small fee to be authorized for travel. The goal is to screen visitors before they arrive in the U.K.
"The scheme will give the UK more control of our borders, allowing us to block threats from entering the UK. The ETA will provide more accurate information regarding the number of people travelling to the UK and the countries they arrive from," it said on its website. "In addition to providing accurate data, ETA will also make the UK an even safer destination. By screening passengers before they reach the UK, threats can be detected earlier."
Airlines will be tasked with checking that all passengers have been approved prior to travel. Otherwise, they could be liable for a penalty charge.
According to the U.K., the ETA will be valid for at least two years, allowing travelers to use it for multiple trips. And while its cost has yet to be revealed, the expectation is that it will be a small fee, similar to what other countries charge for their own pre-travel authorization systems.
The plan is reportedly to first roll out the ETA to some Gulf countries before expanding it internationally. While there is no exact date of when it will include the U.S. and Canada, the expectation is that it will happen sometime later in 2023.
The U.K. government says that the move is “part of our transformation of the border and immigration system.”
“The scheme will give the U.K. more control of our borders, allowing us to block threats from entering the U.K., whilst also providing individuals, and carriers, with more assurance at an earlier point in time about their ability to travel to the U.K.,” the U.K. government says on its website.
In its explanation for the ETA, the U.K. points to other, similar systems used by the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
“The British government has highlighted the similarities between the UK ETA and immigration systems in place in other countries, such as the United States ESTA. The EU will also launch its own digital visa waiver, ETIAS, in 2023,” it said.
The EU’s ETIAS was revealed last June and costs each applicant 7 euros (around $7.40 US or $9.55 CAD). The ETIAS is valid for travel to Europe for three years.
The U.S. version, called Electronic System for Travel Authorization or ESTA, is required for anyone boarding a plane or vessel bound for the U.S. According to Homeland Security, “in most instances, ESTA applicants will receive real-time notification on the disposition of their application to travel to the United States.” The ESTA costs applicants $21 US.