Will EU citizens need an eTA for the UK after Brexit?

David Banks
Authored by David Banks
Posted Sunday, December 20, 2020 - 9:57am

With the end of the Brexit transition period fast approaching, many people have questions about how travelling from the EU to the UK will change from January 1st 2021.

Currently, EU, EEA and Swiss citizens can enter the United Kingdom on holiday or for other short stay purposes without a visa. Just a valid passport is required to cross the border.

The UK’s departure from the EU is likely to change the nature of this arrangement. Whilst there are no indications that EU nationals will be required to obtain a visa to enter Britain, the UK government has expressed its intention to increase border control and improve security.

In December 2019, Secretary of State for the Home Department Priti Patel announced that she hoped to prevent serious criminals travelling to Britain from the EU through the implementation of “automated and accurate entrance and exit checks with all visitors required to have biometric passports.”

One suggested way to achieve this would be to extend the Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) requirements to cover EU citizens. At the moment, electronic travel authorisations are available to citizens of Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. With an eTA UK, passport holders can stay in the UK for up to 6 months without a visa for tourism, business trips, to study, or for medical purposes.

Although it has not yet been confirmed whether EU citizens will need to apply for the visa waiver in 2021, it would be an effective way of boosting security yet at the same time maintaining visa-free privileges for millions of travellers.

What is the Electronic Visa Waiver and how does it work?

The EVW is similar to the ESTA system in the United States and eTA for Canada, allowing visa-free access without compromising border security. As mentioned above, the UK eTA is currently only available to eligible passport holders from the following countries:

  • Kuwait
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • The United Arab Emirates

Visitors from these countries can take advantage of visa-free travel by applying for the electronic permit using a biometric passport. With no need to acquire a traditional visa, passport holders from the countries listed above are not required to visit an embassy or consulate or attend an interview. Instead, the Electronic Visa Waiver application is fully online.

Electronic travel authorisation application process

Individuals applying for the eTA UK are required to complete the electronic application form, providing a few basic personal details and passport data. All the information provided must be accurate and complete: applicants are asked to ensure that the details they provide match those that appear on their passport exactly as any differences in spelling could lead to processing delays or rejection.

Some travel details are also requested including the address of the accommodation in the UK and the arrival and departure dates.

The only other requirements are a current email address to which all correspondence and notifications will be sent, and a debit or credit card to pay the EVW fees.

How long do EVW applications take?

The electronic travel authorisation has a number of advantages over a traditional UK visa. One benefit is that the application process is faster and simpler. The application form itself takes just a few minutes to fill out and can be completed from home at any time of day.

Most requests are processed within 72 hours of being submitted. Travellers can apply anywhere between 3 months and 48 hours before departure.

Travelling to the UK with a visa waiver

The approved visa waiver is valid for a single trip to the United Kingdom, eligible passport holders should apply each time they travel to Britain. On arrival at the UK border, EVW holders are simply required to present their travel documents for fast entry to the country.

The electronic travel authorisation is valid for 6 months from the date of arrival, this means that the passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the arrival date provided when completing the application form.

Visas for the UK

Individuals from non-EU countries who are not from one of the countries eligible for the visa waiver need to apply for a visa to visit the United Kingdom.

There are different types of visa available depending on the reason for travel and the duration of the stay.

The Standard Visitor Visa for the UK covers a wide range of short-stay purposes including:

  • Tourism
  • Business activities such as attending meetings
  • Medical reasons
  • Short study courses

People wishing to work in the UK for a short period may be eligible for a work visa. For extended stays, the relevant type of permit should be obtained. Travellers should check which UK visa they need and apply well in advance of departure.

With entry requirements after Brexit yet to be confirmed, anyone intending to travel to the UK from January 1st 2021 is advised to stay up to date with the latest developments.



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