Hong Kong passport holders who ordinarily have the right to enter the UK without a visa, will have to apply for a permit called ETA to visit the country by the end of 2024. The document will be valid for multiple visits to the country for two years. BN(O) passport holders will also need an ETA prior to travelling to the UK from next year.

What is ETA?

The ETA, or Electronic Travel Authorisation, is a travel permit that 82 nationalities with the right to visa-free entry to the UK for up to six months must apply for before they enter the country. It is an electronic document that will be linked to a traveller’s passport.

Visitors to the UK who are normally entitled to visa-free entry to the country only need to apply for an ETA if they plan to enter the country to visit family and friends, for tourism, or to study for a maximum of six months. However, they must apply for a visa if they plan to stay in the UK longer than six months — in which case, they do not need an ETA.

British or Irish passport holders, travellers who ordinarily require a visa to travel to the UK, and those who already have permission to live, work, or study in the nation do not need to apply for an ETA. However, passengers who plan to transit through British airports to another destination will also need an ETA.

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How do I get an ETA?

All UK-bound travellers will need to apply for the permit using the ETA app or by visiting gov.uk. While an applicant can also apply for other travellers, each person must have their own ETA, including children and babies. Visitors must use the same passport they used to apply for the ETA when at any UK border control point.

Each ETA will cost £10 (HK$97) per application, and applicants will get an email confirmation once they are approved for the permit. The approval process will ordinarily take up to three days, but it may take longer if authorities need more time for further checks.

An ETA is valid for two years and can be used for several trips within this time. However, if an ETA holder’s passport expires before this two-year period, they must apply for a new ETA.

When can I start applying for my ETA?

So far, only nationals of Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates will be able to apply for an ETA over the next six months. 

Qatar citizens will need an ETA to enter the UK from November 15, and can start applying from October 25. Nationals of the other nations mentioned will need their ETAs from February 22, 2024, and can start applying from February 1. According to ETA UK, “More nationalities will be added to the scheme later.”

What happens if I can’t get an ETA?

If an ETA application is rejected, the applicant can apply to enter the UK with a Standard Visitor visa, a Temporary Work — Creative Worker visa, or a transit visa, depending on the purpose of their travel.

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The UK’s ETA is similar to the ETIAS document that nationalities of 60 countries and territories — including Hong Kong — need to apply for to enter all Schengen countries and three other European nations from 2024. The ETIAS, which is issued to passport holders who have visa-free access to these countries, will be valid for three years and can be used for multiple trips.

Click here to check if you are one of the 82 nationalities who need a visa to enter the UK.

Header image credits: Mo Eid via Pexels/Canva

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From the Middle East to the Far East and a couple of places in between, Anjali has lived in no fewer than seven cities in Asia, and has travelled extensively in the region. She worked as a lifestyle journalist in India before coming to Hong Kong, where her favourite thing to do is island-hopping with her daughter. You can check out her musings on motherhood, courtesy her Instagram profile.

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