The Points Guy
As part of the United Kingdom's effort to fully digitize borders by 2025, tourists will soon be required to obtain a new electronic travel authorization to enter the country.
This requirement applies to all visitors, including Americans, who can travel there visa-free.
As of January, the U.K. government has not yet announced a release date for the online application process. It previously said the ETA system would be fully operational by the end of 2023, with plans to release permits early this year.
"Once the ETA is introduced, all international travellers will need permission to enter or transit the UK," per the government. "This will include visa-free nationalities, who will need an ETA," plus those traveling to the U.K. for tourism, business, short-term education and medical treatment.
If you fall into one of those categories, you'll need to apply online anytime before departure to the U.K. This process should only take a few minutes. To apply, you need a valid national biometric passport from an eligible country, travel details, an email address, and a credit or debit card.
"Before submitting an application for approval be sure to check that you have entered all the required information correctly," the government warns. "Any errors could lead to delays in its processing or even rejection of your ETA."
Applications should be processed within 48 to 72 hours. ETAs will be valid for visa-free travel for up to 180 days or six months in the U.K. or valid with a visa for two years.
"The ETA is not a visa," per the government. "Europeans and travellers from countries including the US and Canada will maintain their visa-free status but will need an ETA to cross the UK border."
Though the U.K. government has yet to confirm how much a permit will cost, similar visas for travelers to other places — including Canada, the European Union and the U.S. — range from $5 to $21. The government did not respond to a pre-publication request to comment about this change or when exactly it plans to implement it. It is also unclear whether travelers will be expected to show this form to airlines or the U.K. Border Force upon arrival in the country.
In August 2022, the EU delayed the implementation of the long-awaited European Travel Information and Authorisation System visa program, requiring travelers to pay a fee to visit EU nations, until November 2023. Americans and other travelers from the 62 other non-EU countries that are not currently required to apply for visas will need ETIAS authorization to enter the EU for visits of up to 90 days, including transit passengers. Only visitors ages 18 to 70 will be required to pay the 7 euro fee (about $7), but everyone must obtain the permit.
As of Jan. 27, applications for the ETA UK are not yet open. More information will be available closer to the launch date here.