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UK to require travel authorisation for EU citizens

Following Brexit in 2021, the United Kingdom became a third country and no longer benefits from the free movement of persons and services within the European Union. So far, the withdrawal agreement has allowed visa-free travel for Czech citizens travelling to the island country for non-gainful purposes. Now, however, the UK intends to tighten the conditions for entry, aiming to strengthen the protection of the UK’s borders and to have a better overview of potential security threats.

From 2024, the UK plans to require an electronic travel authorisation (ETA) from all visitors to the country. The ETA will be mandatory for citizens of all states with whom the UK previously negotiated a visa-free regime. It will be required for short-term stays in the territory (up to six months) for the purpose of tourism, business, study or medical treatment. It will also be necessary for transit through the territory (e.g., by air) even if no border check takes place during the transit. The obligation will not apply to holders of British residence or work permits. By and large, the ETA will be similar to the American ESTA travel authorisation required of EU residents flying to the US for tourism or passing through their territory.

The decision on granting an ETA may take upwards of three working days.

The ETA will have to be applied for before travel and will be subject to a £10 fee. The whole process will not be a mere formality, as it may take up to three working days to decide whether to grant a travel authorisation, or even longer if the British authorities conclude that they need to carry out further checks into the applicant's residence history. Once issued, the ETA will be valid for two years, during which the holder will be able to enter the UK repeatedly.

Foreigners will be able to apply for the travel authorisation via the official UK government website or via a mobile application. The certificate of granting an ETA will be issued in electronic form and will be linked to the applicant's travel document which the applicant must use to enter the country. It is also possible to apply for an ETA by proxy. Please note that even minor children must have their own travel authorisations.

For EU citizens, the obligation should apply from the end of next year. For citizens of other visa-free countries such as some Middle East countries, it will be mandatory from February 2024 already.