LONDON: The UK’s new Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme, which will be available to Qatari nationals in October and people in other Gulf Cooperation Council countries and Jordan in February, is at the vanguard of government plans to transform the country’s immigration services, a spokesperson for the Home Office said on Tuesday.
The revamp of Britain’s immigration system is “the biggest the Home Office has embarked upon in several decades,” Lolade Onabolu told the audience at an Arab British Chamber of Commerce event in London on Monday.
The implementation of the new authorization service for GCC countries and Jordan, followed by a global rollout later in 2024, will help to ensure visitors to the UK benefit from “smooth and efficient travel,” the Home Office said previously.
Travelers applying for ETA will have to provide biometric information and personal details and answer a set of questions about their suitability to enter the country. The Home Office said this will streamline the process of visiting the UK and ensure that anyone considered a threat is refused entry.
“The ambition is to make the process (of traveling to the UK) more sleek and a lot more efficient than it currently is,” Onabolu said.
The ETA scheme will be a key component of the strategy for achieving this, while also improving border security, she added.
It was confirmed during the event on Monday that the cost of applying for the travel authorization will be £10 ($13), which was described as being in line with similar international schemes. The US, for example, charges $21 for an application through its Electronic System for Travel Authorization.
The UK authorization lasts for two years and successful applicants can make multiple visits during that time. The maximum duration for any single stay is six months.
Onabolu said the availability of British scheme to the people of GCC nations and Jordan will be a unique selling point compared with similar electronic schemes operated by the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which are not currently available to applicants from the region.
Project manager Vikki Lacey said the service will make business and leisure travel easier, cheaper and more efficient, and is expected to prove popular with travelers from the region.
Cara Aikman, lead technology product manager for the system, said it received good reviews during recent tests in Qatar and the UAE.
“We took the app out to the Gulf earlier this year, spending some time in the UAE and Qatar, and we tested it with around 100 potential applicants, and we received really positive feedback,” she said.
“We also used a lot of what we learned out there to inform future modifications, so we are currently making changes off the back of (that feedback) to make sure the user experience is, ultimately, as good as it possibly can be.”
Should an applicant be unsuccessful in an ETA application, they will still be free to apply for authorization under the existing full visa and single-entry Electronic Visa Waiver scheme.
By the end of 2024, a successful ETA application will be a global requirement for all travelers arriving in the UK who do not need a visa for short stays, including those visiting from Europe. Visitors from European countries and some other nations, including the US and Australia, do not currently need to apply for travel authorization to visit to the UK.
Please visit our website London Institute of Peace Research for latest peace news