Why US Citizens Will Soon Have To Pay A Fee Before Their Trip To The UK

Over the last few years, many U.S. travelers have become well-acquainted with the process of gathering documentation for COVID tests and vaccinations and filling out contact tracing and entry forms before they can fly. While this has been the norm for many nationals of other countries who need to fill out an ESTA or apply for a visa if they want to visit the U.S. for example, it's been an adjustment for Americans. Well, soon enough we'll be in a (somewhat) similar boat. This is because the United Kingdom will soon adopt an Electronic Travel Authorization (E.T.A.) initiative that requires U.S. citizens to fill out a form and pay a fee before they can enter the country (per USA Today).

It's not yet clear what this fee will be or what the application will entail, but it's expected that it won't be too high and any traveler who wishes to visit the United Kingdom will need to pay it. This new travel authorization will not be considered a regular visa so countries that are a part of the visa-exemption program (such as the U.S., Australia, and Canada) will still be able to visit the United Kingdom without requiring an additional application for a full visa.

How Electronic Travel Authorization works

Who is eligible, and all the other details are yet to be released by the United Kingdom's government. In the meantime, U.S. citizens who wish to visit the United Kingdom should prepare for their upcoming trips with this new protocol in mind since it will likely be implemented toward the end of 2023 (per USA Today).

According to the E.T.A. UK website, the waiver is mainly for tourism and short business trips. Any other reasons (such as working or residing in the country long-term) will require visitors or immigrants to apply for the appropriate visa. For the E.T.A., you can apply for the entry waiver online in just a few minutes but make sure it's at least a few days before traveling. When applying, you will need a valid passport from an eligible country, travel details, a valid email address, and a credit or debit card for the purchase. Once approved, visitors will be allowed to spend up to 180 days in the U.K., and the authorization will be valid for two years.

Other countries implementing similar schemes

For now, the U.K. is the only country with imminent plans to implement this kind of requirement in 2023. However, the European Union is expected to adopt a similar travel authorization soon (possibly also in 2023) called the European Travel Information and Authorization System (E.T.I.A.S.). The application will cost around €7 (though is free for those under 18 and over 70) and is meant to be a security measure and also reduce processing time for border checks throughout the Schengen States.

Similar to the E.T.A. the E.T.I.A.S. will also be geared toward nationals and residents of visa-exempt countries like the U.S. and will typically require a passport, general personal information (including your occupation), and information about your intended travel. Applicants may also be asked about past criminal convictions and travel to war or conflict zones. The processing period for the application should only take a few days but if you're asked for more information it could take anywhere between 14 to 30 days so it's recommended to apply well in advance! Luckily, once your application is processed, the authorization will be valid for three years or until your current travel document expires.