Pre-travel authorisation for visitors
What is it?
An ‘Electronic Travel Authorisation’ (ETA) is an authorisation to travel to the UK that the government is rolling out to non-visa nationals. Non-visa nationals are those who do not need to apply for a visa before entering the UK as a visitor. In future, non-visa nationals will have to apply for and be granted an ETA prior to traveling to the UK.
The UK is likely to eventually roll out the ETA requirement to all visa nationals, including US and EU nationals.
An ETA is not a visa and the process for obtaining an ETA is not as involved as that for obtaining a visa.
Who is required to apply for and obtain an ETA prior to travelling to the United Kingdom
Qatari nationals intending to travel to the UK on or after 15 November 2023, and nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, or Saudi Arabia intending to travel to the UK on or after 22 February 2024 are required to obtain an ETA.
The conditions which must be met before an application for an ETA may be granted
An ETA application could be refused on the basis of criminality, bad character or conduct, previous breaches of immigration laws, previous breaches of visa conditions and debt to the NHS or unpaid litigation costs to the Home Office.
How to apply
An application may be made via the gov.uk website or a mobile app, starting on 25 October 2023 for Qatari nationals.
The application requires an email address, a digital photo and payment of an as-yet unconfirmed fee. The fee for the EU pre-travel authorisation scheme, ETIAS, is €7. For the US scheme, ESTA, the fee is $21.
The UK will rely on automated processing for ETAs. A person who is refused an ETA will need to apply for a visa.
How long an ETA will be valid for
An ETA will be valid for 2 years from the date of grant or until the expiry of the holder’s passport used in the ETA application, whichever is sooner.
Changes affecting sponsored workers will take effect from 12 April 2023, where the relevant certificate of sponsorship is assigned on that date or later.
An increase in the ‘going rate’ salary for most roles is compounded by a decrease in the weekly hours on which the going rates for most roles eligible for sponsorship are based. The weekly hours on which going rates are based is changing from a 39-hour week to a 37.5-hour week. The overall effect is higher going rate salary requirements.
Going rates updated
ChatGPT analysis confirms that the going rate for most Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes will increase, as reflected in the sample of roles in the below table.
Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code
Current going rate
Going rate for certificates of sponsorship assigned from 12 April 2023
1115 Chief executives and senior officials
1122 Production managers and directors in construction
1241 Health Care Practice Managers
2135 IT Business Analysts, architects, and systems designers
2136 Programmers and software development professionals
2311 Higher education teaching professionals
2436 Construction project managers and related professionals
6146 Senior Care Workers
General salary thresholds increases
Salary at least going rate
Relevant PhD and salary at least 90% of going rate
Relevant STEM PhD and salary at least 80% of going rate
Shortage Occupation List role
‘New Entrant’ worker, e.g., aged <26, Student or Graduate
Old general salary threshold
New general salary threshold
The hourly salary threshold will increase from £10.10 to £10.75.
Global Business Mobility
The Senior or Specialist Worker and UK Expansion Worker general salary thresholds will increase from £42,400 to £45,800.
Other sponsored worker changes
The new rules specify that sponsors must comply with Working Time Regulations as well as National Minimum Wage Regulations.
Absences are permitted for jury service or attending court as a witness.
A concession is introduced for averaging pay to accommodate irregular working patterns where sponsored workers will be working different hours each week, resulting in uneven pay.
New Innovator Founder visa
From 13 April 2023, the current Innovator visa will be replaced by the Innovator Founder route. The Start-Up visa route will close on the same date.
£50K minimum investment funds are not required under the new Innovator Founder route.
An Innovator Founder visa application based on a new business must be supported by a business plan for an innovative, viable and scalable venture. Innovative means that it meets new or existing market needs or creates a competitive advantage. Viable means realistic and achievable based on the applicant’s resources, and that the applicant has the skills, knowledge experience and market awareness for success. Scalable means structured planning and potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.
The applicant must generate the business plan themselves or make a significant contribution to the ideas in the business plan. They must be the sole founder or an instrumental member of the founding team, who will have a day-to-day role in implementing the business plan.
The ‘same business’ criteria, for an application based on a business that has been endorsed in relation to a previous application are as follows:
- Previous immigration permission as an Innovator Founder, Start-up, or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur);
- The business is active, trading, sustainable and demonstrates significant achievements in line with the business plan. This includes a requirement to register the business with Companies House and for the applicant to be listed as a director or member; and
- The applicant is active in the day-to-day management and development of the business.
- ‘Same business’ applicants must also demonstrate that they attended Contact point meetings with their Endorsing body at regular intervals, for assessment of their progress against their business plan.
All Innovator Founder applicants, whether applying on the basis of a new or same business, must fulfil English language and financial requirements.
In addition to assessing applicants’ fulfilment of the above criteria, Endorsing Bodies will review the sources of funds and modes of transfer of funds and consider whether the endorsed business may be the beneficiary of illicit or unexplained wealth.
Permission will be granted for a maximum of 3 years. Innovator Founders can engage in medium or high-skilled employment outside the running of their business.
Innovator Founders may be eligible to apply for settlement after 3 years’ residence in the UK. An endorsement letter is required to include all of the following information:
- confirmation that the applicant has shown significant achievements, judged against the business plan assessed in their previous endorsement;
- confirmation that the applicant’s business is registered with Companies House and the applicant is listed as a director or member of that business;
- confirmation the business is active and trading;
- confirmation that the business appears to be sustainable for at least the following 12 months, based on its assets and expected income, weighed against its current and planned expenses;
- confirmation the applicant has demonstrated an active key role in the day-today management and development of the business; and
- confirmation the applicant’s business venture has met at least two of the following requirements:
- at least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering the business;
- the number of the business’s customers has at least doubled within the most recent 3 years and is currently higher than the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering comparable main products or services;
- the business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK;
- the business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £1million in the last full year covered by its accounts;
- the business is generating a minimum annual gross revenue of £500,000 in the last full year covered by its accounts, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas;
- the business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for settled workers; or
- the business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for settled workers, each of which has a mean salary of at least £25,000 a year (gross pay, excluding any allowances).
Innovator Founders may bring their family members with them to the UK.
Youth Mobility Scheme
From 29 June 2023, the Youth Mobility Scheme eligible age range is being expanded from 18-30 to 18-35 for New Zealand nationals. Zealand nationals will also be able to apply for permission to extend their two-year YMS visas for one additional year so that their total length of stay may be 3 years.
The Youth Mobility Scheme is a 2-year visa Scheme allowing nationals from certain countries with reciprocal programmes to come to the UK for 2 years. Youth Mobility Scheme visa holders are permitted to work in the UK. Participating countries are Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, San Marino and Taiwan.
Workers’ relationships with their partners will be assessed differently
From 25 July 2023, the Home Office will assess the relationships of work visa holders’ with partners applying for leave as dependants under different criteria. More on this point in due course...