Frequent Questions on the Prior UK Electronic Visa Waiver

As the landscape of international travel evolves, so do the mechanisms governing it. Once a familiar pathway for short-term visits, the former Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) system for the United Kingdom has transitioned. It has been succeeded by the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) for certain nationalities, prompting a range of common concerns among travellers. In this guide, we'll explore some common problems regarding the former EVW UK, now replaced by the ETA for specific nationalities, providing clarity and insights to aid travellers in navigating this new framework.

What is the Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) for the UK?

The Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) served as a form of travel authorization permitting citizens of specific countries to enter the United Kingdom without needing a traditional visa, granting them a stay of up to six months. However, the option to apply for an EVW for entry into the UK has been discontinued. Those with an existing EVW could use it for access until a specified date (24 February 2024). Alternatively, nationals from Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates can seek an electronic travel authorisation (ETA) instead. This ETA, available at an affordable cost, enables travellers to visit the UK for various purposes, including tourism, business activities, or transit. The ETA system facilitates entry into the UK for eligible individuals from these specified countries, offering a streamlined process for obtaining travel permission electronically.

Who was eligible for the EVW?

The eligibility criteria for the Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) varied depending on the nationality of the traveller. Typically, citizens of certain countries, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, could apply for the EVW to visit the UK for short stays. The government determined the specific list of eligible countries and could change over time based on various factors such as bilateral agreements, security concerns, and immigration policies. To qualify for an EVW, individuals from these countries must possess a valid biometric passport, intend to travel for specific purposes, and have a clean record free from any criminal or immigration-related complications.

Why was EVW replaced by ETA?

The government's decision to replace the Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) scheme with the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) scheme was driven by a dual purpose:

  • Enhancing border security and facilitating more efficient travel.
  • The ETA scheme represents an advancement over the EVW in terms of both cost-effectiveness and convenience.
  • It allows for multiple journeys to the UK within a two-year period or until the expiration of the passport, whichever comes first.

The ETA scheme aligns with the broader transformation and digitization initiatives aimed at modernising the UK's border management systems. As part of this transformation, the ETA will be implemented globally for visitors who are currently exempt from obtaining a visa for short stays, encompassing nationals from European countries and beyond. This strategic shift underscores the government's commitment to adapting to evolving travel dynamics while prioritising security and efficiency at its borders.

What is the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA)?

An Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) is a digital authorisation for individuals intending to travel to the UK, particularly those presently exempt from visa requirements for short-term visits. It forms a crucial component of the UK's initiative to modernise its border controls through digitisation, focusing on enhancing security measures and facilitating smoother travel experiences. The ETA grants permission for multiple entries into the UK and remains valid for two years or until the expiration of the passport, whichever occurs first. Application for an ETA can be completed either through the ETA app or via online submission, necessitating the provision of personal contact details, passport information, a recent photograph, and responses to pertinent inquiries. In most instances, applicants can anticipate receiving a decision within three working days, ensuring swift processing of travel authorisations.

What should I do if I already have an EVW?

If you currently hold a valid Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW), you can employ it for entry into the UK until the expiration date, typically until 22 February 2024. However, after this deadline, all existing EVWs will cease to be valid, necessitating the acquisition of an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) for future visits. The application process for an ETA can be completed through the ETA app or online submission. You must furnish your contact details, passport information, a recent photograph and respond to relevant inquiries. In most instances, applicants can expect to receive a decision regarding their ETA application within three working days. Therefore, if you plan to visit the UK beyond the validity period of your EVW, it is imperative to apply for an ETA on time to facilitate your travel arrangements.