Downing Street has confirmed plans to charge EU citizens and other foreign nationals to visit the UK.
Home secretary Priti Patel said Monday that her department would legislation to introduce a new Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA), which she argued would help the government keep track of people entering and leaving the UK.
ETAs will apply to visitors without a visa or immigration status, except British and Irish citizens.
The scheme will mirror the American Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which has a cost of $14 per traveller. The EU is also introducing a similar program, known as the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), which is due to launch from 2022 and will apply to U.K. citizens with an anticipated fee of €7.
“We will have greater accuracy on numbers, we will be able to count in and count out who is in our country. We will not have to work around the hypotheticals around net migration targets or numbers or things of that nature, and even speculate whether numbers will go up or down,” Patel said.
Introducing an ETA was first introduced in the government’s immigration white paper in 2018, and restated during the 2019 General Election.
Visitors will have to fill an online form before traveling to the U.K., which will allow the Home Office to conduct security checks and to take decisions as to whether someone should be allowed to enter the country at an earlier stage.
The department said carriers will have to check these online permissions prior to boarding, and will begin work with selected flight companies for those passengers who currently travel with an Electronic Visa Waiver with the aim of launching a pilot by autumn.
The ETA is expected to come into force by 2025.
Patel also confirmed plans to give the home secretary power to grant British citizenship in “compelling and exceptional circumstances when someone has suffered historical injustices beyond their control,” and to ban the use of “insecure” European national identity cards at the border from October.
She insisted the aim of the reform package is to put security and innovation at the heart of Britain’s post-Brexit immigration policy, and rejected claims Britain is withdrawing from the world.