From iconic landmarks like Big Ben and Stonehenge to the scenic coast, friendly locals, and thousands of things to do, many people have dreamed of traveling to the United Kingdom and experiencing the nation’s unique culture for themselves.
In fact, it’s no surprise that it was the 10th most visited country in the world in 2019!
However, one of the biggest roadblocks that potential travelers face is worrying if they have the correct visa to visit the UK.
There are a few different options for those traveling to the United Kingdom, including an ETA, an Electronic Visa Waiver (also known as the EVW), and a standard visitor visa.
With so many varieties to choose from, it can be confusing — until now. This practical guide goes through some of the most common UK visas, which nationals can apply for each option and other helpful information.
The United Kingdom Electronic Visa Waiver
The UK Electronic Visa Waiver (also known as the EVW) was introduced to streamline the visa process for travelers from certain Gulf countries.
Citizens of Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates are eligible to apply for the UK EVW, and can enter the country for the purposes of tourism, study, business, or seeking medical treatment. Nationals of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are expected to join the list of eligible countries on June 1.
Similar to the UK ETA, the Electronic Visa Waiver application is done entirely online and should take about 15 minutes to complete. After submitting the application, the individual will receive their approved EVW via email. The processing time is usually within 2 business days, and the traveler will need to print out the approved visa waiver and present it when entering the United Kingdom.
Best of all, travelers may apply for the EVW up to 3 months before their intended travel date, and stay in the United Kingdom for up to 6 months. The EVW grants a single entry to the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom ETA
The United Kingdom Electronic Travel Authorisation (also shortened to the UK ETA) was recently introduced after the country underwent Brexit and subsequently changed its visa policy.
The UK ETA is based on similar electronic travel authorizations, including those currently used by the United States, Canada, and Australia, among others.
The UK ETA will be available for foreign travelers who do not need a visa to enter the country, including all 27 members of the European Union, as well as those from the European Economic Area (EEA). These include Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States of America. However, this is just a partial list, and more countries may become eligible when the UK ETA is authorized.
The UK ETA was modeled after the Electronic Visa Waiver and follows a similar application process. Travelers will be able to apply for their ETA over the internet using the quick and simple application form.
The application form will ask basic questions such as the applicant’s full name, nationality, date of birth, contact information (email address and phone number), and passport information.
One of the most important things to keep in mind about the ETA is that the applicant’s passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry into the United Kingdom.
According to the official statement from the UK Home Office, the ETA is anticipated to be introduced by the end of 2024. More details, including the application form and prices, are expected to be available closer to the ETA’s official release date.
The UK Visa
Last but certainly not least, individuals who are not eligible for the EVW or ETA will need to visit their local embassy or consulate and apply for a standard UK visa.
This list includes nationals of more than 150 countries, such as Albania, China, Colombia, Georgia, India, Morocco, Peru, and Turkey, among others.
The most common visa for the UK is the visitor visa, which allows the holder to enter the United Kingdom for the purposes of tourism, business, and medical treatment. The exact details vary depending on the individual, but the visa is typically valid for stays of up to 6 months in the UK.
Besides tourism, business, and medical treatments, there are also specific visas for travelers who wish to reunite with family, get married, or study in the UK.
Speaking of family: those who are planning to visit the United Kingdom as a family should keep in mind that each traveler must have their own visa, including children.
After receiving their UK visa, individuals will need to prepare a few extra documents before traveling. When passing through immigration, travelers will need to show proof of onward travel (such as an airline ticket to their next destination) and proof of financial responsibility (such as a bank statement).
Likewise, travelers transiting through the United Kingdom and onto their final destination may need to obtain a transit visa beforehand. The best way to find out is to double-check the official UK website for further information.