If you’re planning to travel to the United Kingdom (UK) anytime soon, you might want to familiarise yourself with the new policies the nation has implemented recently.

The UK is preparing to implement an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) programme starting in the first quarter of this year, which will significantly alter the admission process for visitors planning to fly to the country in the near future.

So, what does this mean?

The UK ETA, like the United States ESTA and Canada’s eTA, will require visa-exempt travellers (except British and Irish nationals) to fill out a simple online form and pay a charge before travelling.

The rollout of the ETA is part of the UK’s effort to fully digitise its borders by 2025.

How to apply for the ETA

Travellers must submit application information including personal data, passport data, and safety information. Applications will then be automatically processed, and visitors should anticipate hearing back within 48 to 72 hours.

The border crossing procedure still requires travellers to stand in line at immigration upon arrival. With travellers having been screened in advance, however, the revised ETA should reduce wait times dramatically. The cost of the ETA is yet to be announced.

Travellers must submit an ETA application using the Visa & Immigration page at Gov.uk.

When does the ETA come into effect?

The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and other Gulf nations will be the first to implement the ETA.

The introduction of the ETA coincides with the November launch of ETIAS, the European Travel Information and Authorisation System. All international tourists between the ages of 18 and 70 will be required to pay this authorisation cost of €7 (approximately RM32.65).

The UK ETA does not replace a visa and is only valid for stays of up to six months for tourism and business.

Those travelling to the UK for other reasons, such as to live or work there, must still apply for the necessary visas.