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Business Traveller UK Quarantine Exemption

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Unless you qualify for an exemption, if you are travelling to the UK for work from a non-travel corridor country, you will be subject to COVID-19 restrictions.

In most cases, this includes self-isolating for 10 days on arrival and completing a passenger locator form. The quarantine period was reduced from 14 days to 10 days with effect from 14 December 2020.

From 15 December 2020, a broader range of international arrivals travelling for certain work purposes will no longer have to self-isolate, provided they meet conditions specific to their occupation and work to be performed while in the UK.

Among those that may qualify for the quarantine exemption include senior company executives, journalists, performing arts professionals, TV production workers and elite sportspersons if arriving from a country outside of the UK’s travel corridor from 4am on Saturday 5th December 2020.

These professions join a list of others already exempt from the 10-day quarantine rule. The Government has stated the move is designed to support sectors that depend on “specific, high talent individuals who rely on international connections”.

 

Senior business traveller eligibility for quarantine exemption 

The quarantine exemption may be applicable if you are a senior company executive, such a director or equivalent, either returning or travelling to the UK, if you intend to carry out a specific business activity during your stay, and that activity can be shown to bring “significant economic benefit” for the UK.

Significant benefit is classed as doing work that may have a greater than even chance of either creating or preserving at least 50 UK-based jobs in an existing UK-based business which has at least 50 employees or a new UK business within 1 year of the date of your arrival in the UK; or by purchasing goods or services from a UK based business with at least 50 employees. The order must be worth at least £100 million, or the order would be likely to create or preserve 50 or more jobs in that business.

You will also need to show that your work requires you to be physically present in the UK.

During your stay you will be restricted to meeting with others “as required by that specific activity”.

Where the exemption does apply, you must still observe the latest UK public health guidance and restrictions while in the country.

 

Business traveller quarantine exemption letter

The government guidance specifies different documentary requirements depending on the traveller’s occupation.

As a senior business executive, you will need to evidence your eligibility on arrival to the UK by presenting an exemption letter that shows why you are delivering business benefits to the UK.

The letter must be signed by a director of the company you will be visiting and be written on official company letterhead. It should include the following information:

  • Your full name
  • Your date of birth
  • Your passport number
  • The address where you will be staying (and otherwise self-isolating) while in the UK
  • Specify the nature of the business activities you will be undertaking while in the UK
  • Detail the itinerary for your stay, including the time, dates and locations of planned activities
  • Outline the evidence why you must perform the exempt business activity in person and why it is more likely than not to deliver significant economic benefit to the UK

 

The director signing the letter should also provide their contact details including a direct telephone number.

If you have been issued a photographic ID by your employer, you should also bring this to the UK.

 

Essential jobs on the UK quarantine exemption list 

In addition to senior executives, individuals travelling to undertake work in the following occupations may also be exempt from the self-isolation rule, and in some cases exempt from the requirement to complete the passenger locator form:

 

Occupation Exemption applies to Does the traveller need to complete a Passenger Locator Form before travelling to the UK? Does the traveller have to self-isolate on arrival in the UK?

Advertising productions

Individuals coming into England to work on advertising productions as a:

  1. director
  2. actor
  3. director of photography
Yes If staying in England you can only leave your place of self-isolation to travel to your production location and return back to your place of self-isolation. This is known as forming a ‘bubble’. You will need to remain in this ‘bubble’ for the remainder of the 10 days since you were last in a non-exempt country.

Aerospace engineers

Specialist aerospace engineers, or specialist workers responsible for ensuring the safe operation of aircraft. Yes No

Aircraft pilots and crew

Pilots and crew, as defined in paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the Air Navigation Order 2016(h), where such crew have travelled to the UK in the course of their work. Yes if you travel in any part of the aircraft that is accessible to any passenger for any part of the journey (for example the aircraft cabin).

You do not need to complete the passenger locator form if you travel in a part of the aircraft that is not accessible to passengers, for example a fully enclosed cockpit.

No

BBC broadcasting transmission network and services

People engaged in urgent or essential work for the BBC’s broadcasting transmission network and services. Yes No

Border security duties – UK officials and contractors

UK officials and contractors required to work on essential border security duties. You will not need to complete the passenger locator form if you’re either:

  • required to undertake essential government work related to the UK border in the UK during the period which, but for this exemption, you would need to self-isolate
  • undertaking essential government work related to the UK border outside of the UK but required to come back to the UK temporarily before departing the UK to again undertake essential government work related to the border
You will not need to self-isolate if you’re either:

  • required to undertake essential government work related to the UK border in the UK during the period which, but for this exemption, you would need to self-isolate
  • undertaking essential government work related to the UK border outside of the UK but required to come back to the UK temporarily before departing the UK to again undertake essential government work related to the border

Border security duties – non-UK officials and contractors

Non-UK officials and contractors required to work on essential border security duties. You will not need to complete the passenger locator form if you’re either:

  • an official or contractor of a foreign government, required to travel to the UK to undertake essential border security duties
  • in possession of a written notice signed by a senior member of your government confirming that you’re required to undertake essential border security duties in the UK during the period which, but for this exemption, you would need to self-isolate, and that that work cannot be undertaken whilst the person is complying with regulation 4
  • your deployment is pursuant to a standing bilateral or multilateral agreement with the UK government on the operation of the border controls within the UK
You will not need to self-isolate if you’re either:

  • an official or contractor of a foreign government, required to travel to the UK to undertake essential border security duties
  • in possession of a written notice signed by a senior member of your government confirming that you’re required to undertake essential border security duties in the UK during the period which, but for this exemption, you would need to self-isolate, and that that work cannot be undertaken whilst the person is complying with regulation 4
  • your deployment is pursuant to a standing bilateral or multilateral agreement with the UK government on the operation of the border controls within the UK

Bus and coach drivers

Drivers of public service vehicles and other employees of community licence holders for the international carriage of passengers by coach and bus. Yes if you travel in part of the vehicle that is accessible to any passenger for any part of the journey. No

Business directors bringing jobs and investment to the UK

Applies to certain senior executives (directors or equivalents) travelling or returning to England who would be likely to bring significant economic benefit to the UK as a result of their activity. Yes The senior executive will be required to self isolat, except when carrying out the specific activities that are likely to bring significant economic benefit to the UK (including travelling to and from the places in England where they undertake them).

Channel Tunnel system workers

Operational, rail maintenance, security and safety workers working on the Channel Tunnel system. No No

Civil aviation inspectors

Civil aviation inspectors engaged on inspection duties. Yes No

Clinical trials or studies

Sponsors and essential persons needed for clinical trials or studies. Yes No

Crown servants or government contractors

This exemption only applies to those certified by a department of the UK government as meeting the criteria Yes You will not need to self-isolate if a relevant department of the UK government has certified that you are:

  • a crown servant or government contractor travelling to the UK for essential government work, or
  • returning from conducting essential state business outside of the UK, or
  • returning to the UK where this is necessary to facilitate the functioning of a diplomatic mission or consular post of Her Majesty or of a military/other official posting on behalf of Her Majesty

Data infrastructure maintenance

People involved in essential maintenance and repair of data infrastructure required to reduce and resolve outages, or in the provision of goods and services to support these activities. Yes No

Defence personnel, visiting forces and government contractors

Defence personnel, visiting forces and government contractors who the Ministry of Defence has confirmed are required to deliver essential defence activities. No No

Diplomatic missions, international organisations and conferences

Members of diplomatic missions and consular posts in the UK, officers, servants or representatives of international organisations, representatives at an international or UK conference granted privileges and immunities, and their families or dependents. No You will not need to self-isolate if it is confirmed that your work is essential to the functioning of the mission, international organisation or conference and that it cannot be undertaken whilst self-isolating.

Downstream oil facility workers

Workers with specialist technical skills required for essential or emergency works to ensure the continued safe and secure operations of a downstream oil facility that has a capacity in excess of 20,000 tonnes. Yes No

Drivers of goods vehicles

Drivers of goods vehicles and other employees of community licence holders for the international carriage of goods. Yes No

Electronic communications networks

People engaged in urgent or essential work on electronic communications networks. Yes No

Elite sportspersons – international

International elite sportspersons and essential support staff participating in a UK elite sports event listed in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) Regulations 2020 (as amended). Yes You’ll need to self-isolate for the remainder of the 10 days since you were last in a non-exempt country. You can leave your accommodation to travel directly to and attend the listed elite sports event you are participating in with other elite sports persons and essential support staff. Travelling between multiple venue locations for the sports event or training is also permitted.

Elite sportspersons – domestic

Domestic elite sportspersons and essential support staff returning from non-exempt countries to continue their competition or training in England. Yes You will not need to self-isolate, but you should observe the Stages One to Four elite sport guidance framework as published by the UK government.

Medical examinations for elite sportspersons

Elite sportspersons (and any necessary accompanying support) who have made arrangements with a professional sports club to undergo a medical assessment to inform a transfer or contract negotiation to represent that club. Yes You will be required to self-isolate, except to travel to and from the place (or places) where your medical(s) will take place, and to and from the place where you’re otherwise self-isolating.

New domestic elite sportspersons

Elite sportspersons who have travelled to England from non-exempt countries and have entered into a contract with a professional sports club to compete in elite sports events on behalf of that club. Yes You’ll need to self isolate for the remainder of the 10 days since you were last in a non-exempt country. However, you can leave your accommodation to travel directly to and attend the location of an elite sports event or training for an elite sports event that you are participating in. Travelling between multiple venue locations for the elite sports events or training is also permitted.

Environment Agency relating to flood and coastal erosion risk management

Workers engaged in essential or emergency works on behalf of the Environment Agency relating to flood and coastal erosion risk management Yes If staying in England, you will not need to self-isolate.

Eurostar International workers

Drivers and crew of trains operated by Eurostar International Limited, essential cross-border workers working for Eurostar International Limited. Yes if you travel in part of the train that is accessible to any passenger for any part of the journey No

Eurotunnel workers

Eurotunnel train drivers and crew, Eurotunnel Shuttle drivers, freight train drivers, crew and essential cross-border rail freight workers operating through the Channel Tunnel. Yes if you travel in part of the train that is accessible to any passenger for any part of the journey, unless passengers remain in their vehicles in that area. For example, on the Channel Tunnel passenger shuttle. No

Government contractors – the conduct of negotiations

Government contractors required to travel to undertake essential or emergency work overseas to facilitate essential government work or the conduct of negotiations. Yes No

International prison escorts

International prison escorts, designated by the relevant Minister under section 5(3) of the Repatriation of Prisoners Act 1984(a). Yes No

IT and telecoms workers

Information technology or telecommunications professionals whose expertise is required to provide an essential or emergency response to threats and incidents relating to the security of any network and information system and ensure the continued operation of any network and information system. Yes No

Journalists

Journalists who need to travel to England for work assignments, or return to England having travelled abroad for work assignments. Yes You will not need to self-isolate when travelling within the UK for essential work purposes. But should self isolate at all other times.

Medical treatment

Individuals arriving to attend pre-arranged treatment, when receiving that treatment in the UK. Yes You will be able to travel to and from your healthcare provider and the place you’re staying in the UK. You will otherwise be required to self-isolate.

Medicines – human and veterinary

Qualified persons and responsible persons for human and veterinary medicines, clinical trials, clinical investigations and pharmacovigilance. Yes No

National Lottery

People who represent organisations which are participating in the fourth National Lottery Licence competition. Yes You will need to self-isolate, except while undertaking activities necessary for the participation of the organisation you represent in the competition for the fourth National Lottery Licence, and any necessary ancillary travel.

Network Rail workers

Workers engaged in essential or emergency works to the rail network as part of a specialist team with or for Network Rail. You’re only exempt if you’re either:

  • working on automated ballast cleaning and track re-laying systems
  • a specialist rail maintenance technicians maintaining or commissioning industrial machinery for use on national rail infrastructure
Yes No

Nuclear personnel

Nuclear personnel who are essential to the safe and secure operations of a licensed nuclear site. Yes

Nuclear emergency responder

Yes No

Offshore oil and gas workers

Workers required for the continued safe and secure operation, maintenance and essential support services for offshore oil and gas infrastructure in the UK. YES No

Offshore oil and gas

Workers coming into England required to undertake or commence:

  • activities on or in relation to an offshore installation
  • activities on or in relation to upstream petroleum infrastructure
  • critical safety work on an offshore installation or well being decommissioned or preserved pending demolition or reuse
  • activities for the provision of workers, goods, materials or equipment or other essential services required to support the safe operation of the activities referred to above
Yes You will not need to self-isolate if you have travelled to the United Kingdom in the course of your work and are required to undertake or commence the activities or work specified above within the 10 day self-isolation period.

OPCW, IAEA and Euratom inspectors

International nuclear safeguards and chemical industry inspectors, representing the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Euratom. Yes

Performing arts professionals

UK based professionals returning from professional activity abroad who have a work commitments, and to non-UK based professionals coming from abroad for work purposes. Yes You will need to remain in a ‘bubble’ for 10 days since you were last in a non-exempt country. This means you can only leave your place of self-isolation to travel to your COVID-secure work locations and return back to your place of self-isolation during this period.

Postal workers

Postal workers involved in the transport of mail into and out of the UK. Yes No

Quality assurance inspectors for human and veterinary medicines

Quality assurance inspectors for human and veterinary medicines. Yes No

Regular work abroad

People who live in the UK but work in another country and travel between the UK and country of work at least once a week. Yes You will not need to self-isolate if you are staying in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. You will need to self-isolate if you are staying in Scotland.

Registered health or care professionals

The exemption from the requirement to self-isolate for registered health or care professionals was removed on Friday 31 July 2020.If you fall into this group and you arrived in England on or after 31 July you will need to self-isolate if you visited or made a transit stop in a country or territory that is not on the travel corridors list in the 10 days before your arrival.

Regular work in the UK, living abroad

People who live outside the UK but work in the UK and travel between their country of residence and the UK at least once a week. Yes You will not need to self-isolate if you are staying in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. You will need to self-isolate if you are staying in Scotland.

Representatives of a foreign country or territory or British overseas territories

Representatives of a foreign country or territory and representatives of the British overseas territories, along with their families or dependents travelling to the UK to undertake official business with the UK.This includes representatives of foreign countries or territories who are travelling to the UK on official visits, for example to attend negotiations. Yes You will not need to self-isolate if it is confirmed that you are travelling to the UK for official business which cannot be undertaken whilst self-isolating.If your family members or other dependents travel with you, they will need to self-isolate after they arrive in the UK.

Seamen and masters and inspectors and surveyors of ships

Seamen and masters as defined in section 313(1) Merchant Shipping Act 1995, maritime pilots as defined in para 22(1) of schedule 3A of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, and inspectors and surveyors of ships appointed under section 256 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 or by a government of a relevant British possession as defined in section 313(1) of that Act. Yes if you travel in a part of the vessel that is accessible to any passenger for any part of the journey. No

Seasonal agricultural workers

Seasonal agricultural workers who have an offer of employment for seasonal work to carry out specific activities in edible horticulture on a named farm. Yes and then immediately go to the farm where you are working. You can start work immediately but you must self-isolate on the farm for 10 days.

Seasonal poultry workers

Seasonal poultry workers who have an offer of employment for seasonal work to carry out specific activities in poultry processing on a named farm or processing site. Yss Before you travel to England you should have accommodation arranged where you can self-isolate.In order to benefit from the exemption, you will need to stay at the address specified in your passenger locator form when you are not at work or travelling to or from work.

Specialist technical workers – sub-sea telecommunications infrastructure

Sub-sea telecommunications infrastructure personnel who are engaged in or whose role directly supports the installation, maintenance or repair of subsea fibre optic telecommunications infrastructure who have travelled to the UK in the course of their work. Yes No

Specialist technical workers – goods

Workers with specialist technical skills for essential or emergency works or services (including construction, commissioning, installation, maintenance, and repairs and safety checks) to ensure the continued production, supply, movement, manufacture, storage or preservation of goods. Yes No

Specialist technical workers – waste

Workers with specialist technical skills required for essential or emergency works (including construction, commissioning, installation, maintenance, repairs and safety checks) or to fulfil contractual obligations or warranty specifications in, or in connection with, waste management facilities used for the management, sorting, treatment, recovery, or disposal of waste (including energy from waste). Yes No

Specialist technical workers – power infrastructure

Workers with specialist technical skills required for essential or emergency works to ensure the continued safe and secure operations of generating stations, gas or electricity transmission or distribution networks, electricity interconnectors, gas terminals or district or communal heat networks Yes No

Specialist technical workers – space infrastructure

Workers with specialist technical skills required for essential or emergency works to ensure the continued safe and secure operations of space infrastructure. Yes No

Television production Essential cast and crew

The following cast members either travelling to England to work on a television production or returning to England from an from an international assignment of a television production:

  • an actor
  • a presenter or other significant on-screen participant (for example, a contestant, competition judge, musician, stunt performer)

The following crew members either travelling to England to work on a television production or returning to England from an from an international assignment of a television production:

  • director
  • producer
  • director of photography
  • lighting director
  • creative director
  • other key members of the production crew at director level who are responsible for managing key aspects of the production
  • senior executive responsible for overseeing the production
Yes You will need to remain in a ‘bubble’ for 10 days since you were last in a non-exempt country. This means you can only leave your place of self-isolation to travel to your COVID-secure production locations and return back to your place of self-isolation during this period.You will not need to self-isolate when travelling within the UK for essential work purposes. But should self-isolate at all other times.

High-end television production and film

Individuals coming into the UK to work on film and high-end television productions which qualify as British under one of the government’s cultural tests or official co-production treaties. Yes You will need to remain in a ‘bubble’ for 10 days since you were last in a non-exempt country. This means you can only leave your place of self-isolation to travel to your COVID-secure production locations and return back to your place of self-isolation during this period.

Transiting airside through the UK

People transiting airside (individuals who arrive in the UK but do not pass border control). Yes You will not need to self-isolate as you are only transiting via the UK.

Transporting human cells or blood

If you’ve travelled to the UK for the purpose of transporting, to a healthcare provider in the UK, material which consists of, or includes, human cells or blood which are to be used for the purpose of providing healthcare. Yes No

Water supplies and sewerage services workers

Workers engaged in essential or emergency works, related to water supplies and sewerage services. Yes No

 

If you do not qualify for the exemption: Test to Release Scheme

If you cannot show that you meet the exemption requirements, you will be required to self-isolate for two weeks after your arrival in the UK.

It may however be possible to reduce the period of quarantine by taking advantage of the new Test to Release scheme.

From 15 December, the Test to Release scheme will enable travellers arriving in the UK to pay for a private coronavirus test. If the result is negative, their isolation period will be reduced in most cases to five days.

The scheme is different to the NHS Test and Trace service. A list of approved private providers is available on the .gov website.

Travellers arriving from non-travel corridor countries by plane, ferry or train who want to use the scheme should book their test before they travel and state this on their passenger locator form prior to arriving and then go straight into self-isolation at home as usual. If opting-in after arrival, they will need to resubmit their passenger locator form.

 

Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris are specialist UK business immigration lawyers. We work with employers in the UK and overseas to support talent mobility programmes, including advice on immigration options and guidance on the latest COVID-19 restrictions and exemptions affecting business travellers and migrant workers. If you have a query about the business traveller quarantine exemption, or any aspect of business travel to the UK, speak to our immigration experts.

 

Last updated: 14 December 2020

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