What is an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), or some similar name. Some countries, like Kenya, call them e-Visas.
An Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) provides authorization to travel to and enter the foreign country and it is electronically linked to your passport.
It is for short term stays for tourism or business visitor activities such as attending a conference, making business inquiries, or for contractual negotiations.
It is an approval process that many countries have already initiated to allow them to process your request to visit before you arrive at their border.
In the past, many travelers would arrive at the border with a passport and money in hand, ready to purchase a visa to enter the country. Well, that has been changing.
A little background first. To simplify travel between countries, many of them joined with each other to set up a visa program that basically said that we will let your people enter our country if you let our people enter your country. That resulted in what was often called visa free access between the countries. Each country had their own “Visa Waiver Countries List” granting access to foreign nationals of specified countries. Of course, the also had a list of who they would not allow to enter their country.
Other countries would allow people from some countries come visit, but you usually had to get a visa before you left home. Some countries did allow you get them at the border. For example, we traveled to Kenya and Tanzania last year. We went online to get our Kenya e-Visa, but waited until crossing the border to get the Tanzania visa. (Keep in mind that at the border crossing from Kenya to Tanzania, they required newer crisp US Dollars to pay for the entry visa. They did not accept credit cards, Kenyan money or old beat up and wrinkled US Dollars.) We did not want to have to send our passport to a Tanzanian embassy or some such effort to get a visa ahead of time. What would happen to our trip if it was lost in transit? A ruined vacation, that is what. That is why we really appreciated the fact that Kenya allowed us to apply for a visa online. We also purchased a visa at the airport when we flew into Zambia three years ago.
Our next big trip is to New Zealand and Australia. When we started the planning, we knew that the US was on the visa waiver list with New Zealand and Australia and that we could apply online for our visas. We also read that Australia required us to also obtain an Electronic Travel Authority before we left home; something that we had never heard of. You probably didn’t know about it either.
We recently discovered that as of October 2019, we also need an ETA from New Zealand as well. If you check the US Department of State website, here is what you will read about New Zealand. This site is not up-to-date. “If you are a U.S. citizen, you are eligible for a visa waiver and therefore do not need a visa for tourist stays of three months or less. You must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond your planned departure from New Zealand. Visit the New Zealand Embassy website for the most current visa information.” You can get the ETA from New Zealand or from one of their contractors, etaNewZeaLand.com
What I didn’t know was that there are several countries that require travelers to obtain an ETA before arrival. The reason is to speed the process of going through customs and immigration at the border. Some countries, don’t require them if you arrive by land or by sea, but they do if you arrive by air. Canada is an example with this type of rule for what would normally be visa waiver country for US Citzens. Here are examples of other countries with similar ETA type requirements: Bolivia, Brazil, Vietnam, China,Cuba, etc..
So, the bottom line is, Always check with each country you are visiting early in the planning process and check again a few weeks before you go!!! Don’t trust this site or any site, other than the official government site, for up-to-date info. All of us who write blogs for travelers, do our best to keep up with ever changing rules around the world, but we also want to remind you to check on an official site. You don’t want to be turned away at the border because you didn’t know about some new rule change.