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New Nationality and Borders Act may have ‘significant impact’ on travel to UK

UK employers and inbound travellers may soon face delays to visa processing, one legal expert has warned, as they prepare for the introduction of new immigration legislation.

Shara Pledger, corporate immigration expert at Pinsent Masons, said a handful of key provisions included in the 2022 Nationality and Borders Act, which comes into force on 28 June, could have a “significant impact on future travel to the UK”.

Under the new rules, the Home Secretary will be able to place visa penalties on countries that do not co-operate with deportation orders by suspending visas entirely, imposing a £190 surcharge on applications to come to the UK or increasing visa processing times. The visa penalty provisions in the Act can also be enforced against countries that the government believes pose a “risk to international peace and security.”

Pledger said: “While 28 June will not see immediate impacts for any specific country, notice could be given at any time of measures to take future effect. Once visa penalty provisions are in force, travellers and UK employers will need to manage expectations regarding visa delays and processing.”

The Act also includes new rules for Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) - an electronic waiver for travel to the UK in the absence of a visa. The Home Office called the new scheme a “universal ‘permission to travel’ requirement”, under which everyone wishing to travel to the UK - except British and Irish citizens – must seek permission in advance of travel. ETA will be a requirement for all UK visitors who currently travel visa-free, including those from the European Economic Area.

Ministers said the scheme will not launch later this month but added that the rules are being brought into force to allow for measures to be phased in. They expect ETA to be fully in place by the end of 2024. The cost of applying for ETA is not yet clear, though the UK already operates a similar scheme, known as the electronic visa waiver (EVW), for several Gulf states, which carries a £30 fee.

Pledger said: “Anyone who has travelled to the United States as a visitor in recent years will be familiar with the new ETA concept if they utilised the US’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) scheme. ETA will not be required for everyone - they won’t apply to British citizens, for example - but those requiring permission to enter the UK may need to secure ETA before travel, even if they have never needed to do so before.”

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