The new era of required travel authorization is officially set to start soon.
Starting next week, the U.K. will officially begin requiring some inbound international visitors apply, and pay, for the ETA. Initially, only visitors from Qatar will have to get authorization—starting on Oct. 25, nationals of Qatar will be able to apply for authorization to the U.K. for travel starting on Nov. 15.
The ETA 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 U.K., when it announced plans for the ETA last year, said that the goal was to screen visitors before they arrive in the U.K. and, at the same time, provide more accurate inbound travel data.
The cost for the application has yet to be revealed, but the expectation is that it would be lower than a typical U.K. visa application, and comparable to the EU’s ETIAS program, which was revealed last June and costs each applicant 7 euros (around $7.40 US or $9.55 CAD).
The application process is also expected to take just three days, and, once approved, travelers will be able to use the ETA for multiple trips to the U.K. for two years.
After the Qatar launch, the U.K. plans to expand the scheme to other Gulf nations, including Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, starting in February 2024.
Other countries, including the U.S. and Canada, along with all European countries outside of Britain and Ireland, are expected to be added sometime after. No exact date for the North American rollout has been revealed, but the ETA launch is part of the U.K.’s government plan to “fully digitalize borders by 2025,” so visitors can expect the launch before then.
The ETA is yet another new program that will require North Americans to fork over an authorization fee before travel. The other big one is the EU’s ETIAS, which was delayed until at least 2025 due to operational delays. That program has been in the works since 2016 but now won’t launch until May 2025.
The U.S., for its part, has its version, called Electronic System for Travel Authorization or ESTA. The ESTA costs applicants $21 US.
Canada also has a version, called eTA, which is required for a lot of foreign travelers outside of North America. Canada’s eTA is valid for up to 5 years and costs $7 CAD.