UK Proposes an Electronic Travel Authorization for EU Travelers to Northern Ireland

UK Proposes an Electronic Travel Authorization for EU Travelers to Northern Ireland

EU and other travelers would need to get an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) to be allowed into Northern Ireland if a new entry scheme is approved, announced the UK government.

The pre-clearance document, which in practice is similar to the American (ESTA) or the European (ETIAS application), would be easily obtained online, said Kevin Foster, Northern Ireland’s Immigration Minister during a meeting with the House of Commons in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland has a particular set of rules and legislation that allow British and Irish citizens to live, work, study, and retire in each other’s country without having to go through immigration checks.

When asked about changes on this policy, he said the document would not be reviewed at the UK border because they “don’t operate routine immigration controls through the common travel area.”

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He went on to say that “this will be a fairly simple process.” Then he mentioned that “when the US ESTA originally launched you could fill it in at the airport and fly an hour or two later.”

The minister assured his government is working on ways to make it a simplified and straightforward process. 

The proposal has not been welcomed by anyone outside Northern Ireland and even some leaders in the country have spoken against it.

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Many argue that this would cause an unnecessary hassle for citizens as it threatens to “hardening [the] border.”

It would generate new bureaucracy and legal ambiguity for citizens going about their daily lives, said Stephen Farry, an Alliance party MP.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s Minister for Enterprise, Trade, and Employment is concerned about the changes the proposal may introduce while he maintains it “doesn’t come as a huge surprise.”

“We’re certainly going to communicate to our UK counterparts our concerns and our objections to this measure. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise,” he said.

However, Foster thinks that non-Irish or non-British nationals who did not have the right to be in the UK visa-free would “probably get used to the idea that they need to apply for something in terms of [travel into] the UK”.

If approved, the scheme would take effect in 2025.