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Insights & Events > Computer says ‘probably not’ – UK Electronic Travel Authorisations

Computer says ‘probably not’ – UK Electronic Travel Authorisations


What is the pre-travel authorisation scheme for visitors to the UK?

The UK has introduced an ‘Electronic Travel Authorisation’ (ETA) scheme. An ETA is an authorisation to travel to the UK that the government is rolling out to non-visa nationals.

An ETA is not a visa and the process for obtaining an ETA is not as involved as that for obtaining a visa.

Who is required to apply for and obtain an ETA prior to travelling to the United Kingdom

The UK will eventually roll out the ETA requirement to all non-visa nationals, including US and EU nationals and children. The ETA requirement applies to Creative Workers relying on the concession to enter and work in the UK for up to 3 months and to transit visitors.

Irish nationals will not need an ETA. UK visa holders do not need ETAs.

Qatari nationals intending to travel to the UK, and nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, or Saudi Arabia intending to travel to the UK on or after 22 February 2024 are now required to obtain an ETA.

Process requirements

An application may be made via the GOV.UK website or the UK ETA app. The scheme is already open to Qatari nationals.

The application requires an email address, a digital photo and payment of £10.

Validity and renewals

An ETA will be valid for 2 years from the date of grant or until the expiry of the holder’s passport used in the ETA application, whichever is sooner.

Guaranteed admission?

An ETA does not guarantee admission to the UK.

An ETA application could be refused on the basis of criminality, bad character or conduct, previous breaches of immigration laws, previous breaches of visa conditions and debt to the UK National Health Service or unpaid litigation costs owed to the Home Office.

A person who is refused an ETA will need to apply for a visa.

The UK uses automated processing for ETAs, raising all the usual concerns around automated processing in immigration decision-making, including lack of discretion, access to justice issues resulting from negative decisions, failing to provide adequate reasons for refusal, insufficient review processes, potential bias in algorithms used, lack of transparency in programming, inappropriate risk profiling and data sharing.

ETAs may be granted through automated processing of applications. Where the result of automated processing is to suggest refusal, a caseworker will review and decide the application.

Get employees ready

Communicating details of the new ETA scheme will be key to avoiding travel disruption and disappointment for US and other non-visa nationals who are used to traveling to the UK without first obtaining any kind of permission.


Author avatar
Samar Shams
Managing Partner @ Changes Immigration
+44 (0) 7591 385033