Northman & Sterling

UK Introduces An Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) For GCC Residents Traveling To The United Kingdom

Citizens from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations will soon be required to obtain an ETA for their travels to the UK. Notably, Qatari citizens are already eligible to apply for this newly introduced permit.

The introduction of the Electronic Travel Authorisation system is a significant development, with GCC passport holders being the inaugural beneficiaries of this streamlined process. The upcoming ETA will serve as a replacement for the existing EVW, currently necessary for GCC nationals traveling to the UK without a visa.

All nationals from GCC countries can now apply for the UK ETA. Qatar leads the way as the first GCC nation eligible for the Electronic Travel Authorisation, requiring it for travel to the UK starting from November 15, 2023. The remaining GCC countries, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, will gain eligibility for the UK ETA in February 2024. Jordan will also be included in the list of eligible countries at the same time as the GCC nations. Subsequently, the ETA program will be expanded to include citizens from other visa-exempt countries, including EU member states.

When will GCC nationals need an ETA to visit the United Kingdom?

Starting from February 2024, travelers from Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates will require an ETA to enter the UK. Applications for these nationalities will be accepted from February 2024 onwards.

Subsequently, the ETA program will be extended to encompass other visa-exempt nationalities, including travelers from Europe, Australia, and the United States.

Updated Visa Requirements for GCC Nationals Transitioning from EVW to ETA in the United Kingdom

Citizens of all GCC countries are permitted to stay in the UK without a visa for a continuous period of up to 6 months.

Presently, GCC nationals (excluding Qatar) must obtain an Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) to travel to the UK without a visa. The UK EVW for GCC citizens can be applied for online and, upon approval, is digitally linked to the individual’s GCC passport.

An approved EVW for the UK grants the holder a 6-month stay in the United Kingdom for various purposes, including tourism, business, short-term study, and medical treatment.

Once the new system is implemented, GCC passport holders will be required to obtain an ETA instead of an EVW. The ETA will be valid for the same duration and for purposes such as tourism, business, short-term study, and medical treatment.

What is the Process for Applying the UK ETA for GCC Citizens?

According to the British Home Office, the process for applying for a UK ETA is described as “simple.” GCC citizens can effortlessly fill out the online form within minutes, providing the necessary information, including:

  • Personal details
  • Passport data
  • Travel information
  • Responses to basic security questions.

Application Criteria for GCC Nationals Obtaining the UK ETA

To complete the application, GCC citizens must satisfy the following ETA prerequisites:

  • A valid passport issued by a GCC country
  • A credit or debit card for payment of the UK ETA fee
  • An active email address to receive notifications

Individuals applying for the UK ETA from the GCC are advised to submit their applications at least 72 hours before their planned entry into Great Britain. While most applications are typically processed within 3 business days, some cases may experience longer processing times.

ETA Benefits and Global Trends

The Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) facilitates multiple entries into the UK and remains valid for either two years or until the expiration of the applicant’s passport, depending on which comes first. Several other jurisdictions, including the US, Europe, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, have either implemented or are planning to introduce similar schemes. Managing multiple permissions can be a complex task, so tracking these statuses for your employees becomes essential to guarantee their readiness for travel.