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What to Know About the U.K.’s New Online Application and Entry Fee for Visitors | Frommer's lazyllama / Shutterstock

What to Know About the U.K.’s New Online Application and Entry Fee for Visitors

Soon, visiting the United Kingdom will involve filling out an online application in advance and paying an entry fee. Here's what we know so far.

By the end of 2023, travelers will have to complete an online application and pay an entry fee to visit the United Kingdom, the nation's government has announced.

The U.K.'s new Electronic Travel Authorisation (deeply sorry about that British spelling) will be required of all international visitors from countries whose citizens don't otherwise need special visas to enter England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Visa-exempt nations include the United States as well as Canada, Mexico, Australia, European Union member states, and several dozen other countries across the globe. People from all those places will need to apply for the new digital waiver—and pay the entry fee—to set foot in the U.K. 

Similar to the USA's already existing Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), the U.K.'s ETA system is designed to screen potential foreign visitors to verify that they are indeed exempt from visas and may enter the country.

The European Union plans to roll out its own digital visa waiver, the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), in the autumn. Having left the EU, the U.K. will not be included in that program.

Applying for the U.K.'s ETA must be done online and should only take a few minutes, according to the official ETA website

Applicants will need to provide passport information, travel details, a valid email address, and other bits of personal data. There will also be a fee, though no word on the amount has been released yet.

The EU's ETIAS will cost €7 per applicant between the ages of 18 and 70, if that serves as any indication. U.S. Customs and Border Protection charges $21 for ESTA. Australia's similar program, which requires registering before travel using one of two official smartphone apps, can cost up to AU$20. 

Once the U.K.'s system gets up and running, you should expect to hear back via email about whether you've received ETA approval or not within 48 to 72 hours of submitting your application.

It's not clear at this point how long your ETA will remain valid, but the British government figures each digital waiver will likely be good for at least 2 years' worth of U.K. visits. Each stay can't exceed 6 months, so it's reasonable to expect travelers' passports should be valid for more than 6 months after arrival. 

The U.K. government website describes the new entry requirement as part of an effort to digitize border crossings fully by 2025. Upon arrival in the U.K., ETA holders will only need to scan their passports at machines to verify ETA status. The entry permit will be digital and its verification electronic.

Some crucial pieces of info about the new entry requirement haven't been announced yet, including a launch date more specific than "by the end of" 2023 and, perhaps most important, exactly how much the application fee will be. 

We'll keep you posted.