The Home Office is in the process of implementing an Electronic Travel Authorisation Scheme and essentially, this is a scheme which will be used to pre-check people who will be travelling to the UK for the purposes of visits. The scheme is due to be rolled out in stages later on this year and it will become a new requirement for non-visa nationals who are visiting the UK, namely those who currently do not require a visa to enter the UK for visit purposes. The idea is that the ETA will grant the passenger permission to enter the UK and the Home Office position is that the ETA will strengthen UK Border security. Essentially, if a passenger does not have a valid ETA, then they will be denied boarding an aircraft by the airline carrier and consequently they will not be permitted entry into the UK. If a passenger who requires a valid ETA arrives in the UK without one, then this could also be considered a criminal offence.
In terms of the application procedure, passengers will need to apply for the authorisation either via an online application or via a mobile App and they will need to provide particular information including their photograph. Details of any previous criminal offences in the UK or elsewhere either in the last 12 months or at any time if the conviction resulted in a prison sentence of 12 months or more will mean that that passenger will not be able to obtain an ETA and the Home Office have indicated that applications should be decided within about 3 days of submission unless further enquiries need to be made of the passenger. In circumstances where an ETA is refused, the passenger will need to apply for a visa which in itself will take time and will incur further application fees. Once an ETA has been issued, it will be valid for multiple trips to the UK either for 2 years or until the expiry of the passport which the passenger used in order to make the authorisation application, if this is earlier.
Bearing in mind the scheme is being rolled out in various stages, it will be important for passengers to keep an eye on developments and equally important for employers to ensure that any of their relevant employees requiring an ETA apply for and obtain one before they travel to the UK.
For advice on this or any other immigration issues, please don’t hesitate to contact Sohan Sidhu.