United Kingdom’s ETA System Opens for citizens of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE

In a significant move to streamline entry procedures and redefine international travel, the United Kingdom has expanded its Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) system to include citizens from Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. From February 22, 2024, citizens from those countries will be able to enjoy the benefits of the ETA system, heralding a new chapter of accessibility and convenience for thousands of travelers.

This innovative scheme, already available to Qatari citizens, marks a significant departure from the traditional Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) process. It stands as a testament to the UK’s commitment to streamlining entry requirements, fostering closer ties with the Gulf and Jordanian regions, and enhancing the overall travel experience. For a nominal fee of $12.75 (£10), the ETA allows for multiple entries into the UK over a two-year period, simplifying the journey for tourists, business travelers, and short-term students alike.

Initially launched on October 25, 2023, exclusively for Qatari nationals, the ETA program is a digital pre-screening process designed for visa-exempt foreign nationals. It grants permission to travel or transit through the UK. With the ETA, eligible visitors can enjoy the UK’s diverse attractions, connect with family and friends, engage in business, or pursue academic studies, allowing stays of up to six months for most purposes, and up to three months under the creative worker visa concession.

UK visa free

Applicants must hold nationality in one of the specified countries; passports alone from these countries are not sufficient without corresponding nationality. The ETA is valid for two years (or until the passport expires, if sooner) and permits multiple entries into the UK. Should an ETA application be denied, individuals must then seek a Standard Visitor visa, Temporary Work – Creative Worker visa, or a transit visa, depending on their travel purpose.

By the end of 2024, the ETA requirement will extend to all short-stay visitors from visa-exempt countries, including those from European countries, Australia, and the United States. This forward step by the UK government is set to redefine the travel experience, making it more seamless and accessible for a broader audience of international travelers. The introduction of the ETA system is a key component of the UK government’s broader strategy to transform and digitize the UK border and immigration system. By facilitating a more seamless customer experience and ensuring robust pre-travel security checks, the UK aims to bolster the security of its borders while preventing abuse and safeguarding communities.

The significance of this initiative cannot be overstated. Gulf visitors, in particular, are a vital part of the UK economy, with almost 800,000 individuals spending £2 billion during their stays in 2022 alone. By removing the need for a visa for short stays, the UK opens its doors wider to a region that represents its second-largest tourism market, promising to contribute even more significantly to economic and cultural exchange.

Home Secretary James Cleverly highlighted the importance of the ETA, stating,

“The ETA will improve the experience of travelling to the UK for the thousands of visitors from the Gulf and Jordan, who represent our second largest tourism market and contribute billions to the UK economy.” His words underscore the UK’s vision to position itself as a world leader in border innovation and security.

Echoing this sentiment, the Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, Lord Ahmad, expressed his delight at the ease the ETAs will bring to Gulf and Jordanian friends visiting the UK.

“Our strong people-to-people links underpin our close partnership, and we all benefit from the boost to trade, education, and tourism ties ETAs will bring,” he noted, emphasizing the deep-rooted connections and mutual benefits derived from simplified travel processes.

The application process for an ETA is straightforward and entirely digital, requiring applicants to provide biographic and biometric details via a mobile app. This user-friendly approach ensures that the majority of decisions are made within hours, further enhancing the appeal of the UK as a destination.

Patricia Yates, CEO of VisitBritain, lauded the ETA scheme’s expansion, noting its role in making travel to the UK “easier, cheaper, and more accessible” for Gulf nationals and Jordanians. This initiative, coupled with strong airline connections and the UK’s competitive tourism offer, underscores Britain’s welcoming spirit and its readiness to host more visitors eager to experience its vibrant and dynamic offerings.

As the UK prepares to extend the ETA scheme worldwide to those who do not currently need a visa for short visits, the message is clear: the UK is open for business and pleasure, ready to welcome the world with open arms. This strategic move not only enriches the UK’s tourism landscape but also strengthens the bonds of friendship and cooperation with the Gulf and Jordanian regions, promising a future where cultural exchange and mutual understanding flourish like never before.

Leave a Comment