The United Kingdom has announced this month a new Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme, significantly reducing the cost and enhancing the ease of travel for citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and Jordan. This move is part of the UK government’s plan to digitise the UK border by 2025, improving both border security and the customer experience.
Starting in October 2023 for Qatari nationals, and February 2024 for the rest of the GCC states and Jordan, the new ETA will cost only £10. This is a significant reduction from the current costs under the Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) scheme, which charges Gulf nationals £30 per visit and Jordanian nationals £100 for a visit visa.
The introduction of the ETA scheme will standardise visa requirements for GCC and Jordanian visitors, aligning them with other countries such as the United States and Australia. This is a noteworthy development, considering the high economic value Gulf visitors bring to the UK. Statistics reveal that over 790,000 Gulf visitors contributed approximately £2 billion to the UK economy in the preceding year.
The UK Immigration Minister, Robert Jenrick, emphasised the benefits of the new ETA scheme: “Visitors from the Gulf states and Jordan make a huge contribution to the UK’s tourism industry and the new ETA scheme will make it easier and cheaper for them to travel to the UK. The cost of an ETA will be one of the best value in the world compared to similar international schemes. This small additional cost to visitors will enable us to bolster the security of the UK border and keep our communities safe.”
Adding to this sentiment, Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, Lord Ahmad, expressed his delight at this partnership enhancement, stating, “I’m delighted that our partners across the Gulf and Jordan will be the first to benefit from the UK’s new Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme. This scheme is further proof of the strong partnership between the UK and countries across the region.”
He continued, “By cutting costs and visa requirements, the ETA scheme will ensure visitors from the Gulf states and Jordan can enjoy travelling with ease to the UK, boosting business and tourism links between our countries.”
The application process for the new ETA will be entirely digital and accessible via a mobile app. Prospective applicants will need to provide biographic and biometric details, including a digital photograph, and answer a set of suitability questions.
After its initial launch in the GCC states and Jordan, the scheme is expected to roll out worldwide throughout 2024, marking a significant shift in how the UK manages its borders and visitor experiences.