New immigration COVID restrictions are now in effect in England as the Government moves to suppress transmission of the coronavirus.
Travel corridors closed
All quarantine-free travel corridors for people arriving into the UK have been closed indefinitely, and all arrivals from anywhere outside the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man must now present a negative Covid-19 test issued no more than 72 hours before departure to be allowed entry. Passengers must then go into immediate isolation for ten days.
The measures took effect from 4am Monday 18 January 2021 and apply to all travellers, including UK residents and visitors, who arrive by boat, train or plane.
Arrivals from red-list countries
Arrivals into England from countries on the Government’s ‘red list’ are now subject to a travel ban. Anyone coming into the country from the listed destinations will automatically be refused entry unless they fall under the tightened permitted reasons.
The ban does not affect British and Irish Nationals, or third country nationals with residence rights in the UK, who are now (from 4am Monday 15 February 2021) required to quarantine in government-approved accommodation for ten days after arrival.
Each traveller will have to take two COVID tests during the isolation period; one on day 2 and one on day 8.
The mandatory quarantine stay will cost £1750 for one traveller, plus £650 per additional adult or a child aged over 12, or for a child aged five to 12, an additional £325.
The charge is understood to cover the hotel stay, transport to the accommodation and testing during their stay.
The accommodation must be booked by travellers in advance of their journey using a new online government booking system.
The ‘Test to Release’ scheme (see below) is not available for arrivals from red list countries.
People travelling from red list countries to Wales and Northern Ireland will be required to book and pay for quarantine in England, as neither destination has any direct international flights.
All international arrivals into Scotland will be subject to mandatory quarantine in a hotel – not just those arriving from red list countries.
Failure to follow the mandatory quarantine rules can result in fines of £5,000 to £10,000.
Providing false information on the passenger locator form, such as lying about having been in a red list country, may result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Which countries are on the UK’s red list?
The 33 countries on the red list are:
- Cape Verde
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- French Guiana
- Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates
Business travellers & returning expats
With holiday and leisure travel already banned, the restrictions will predominantly impact business travellers and returning expats, who are advised to ensure they are fully prepared ahead of travelling to the UK.
Passengers will need to ensure they are allowed to travel, and if so, have a valid, negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure. Proof must be given to the travel company they are travelling with, for example, the airline, ferry company or train operator. The test result must be in English, French or Spanish.
An online passenger locator form must be completed before travel. The form can be submitted up to 48 hours before arrival in the UK.
Travellers will also need to make arrangements in advance to self-quarantine immediately for 10 days, or 5 days if they pass under the ‘test to release scheme’.
During the quarantine period, the traveller must take an NHS Test and Trace COVID test on days 2 and 8, at a cost of £210.
Under the test to release scheme, the mandatory quarantine period can be reduced to 5 days if the passenger passes an approved COVID test on arrival. The test must be booked in advance of travel.
If using test to release, passengers must still present a valid negative COVID test on arrival and must quarantine until they receive the negative result.
Travelling without a valid negative COVID test, or failing to complete the passenger locator form, is a criminal offence. Passengers can be fined, refused permission to board and foreign nationals may be refused entry into the UK.
If you are planning to travel to the UK for business or work and are concerned about the latest restrictions, speak to our business immigration specialists. We are advising employers, senior executives and employees on travel options to be able to meet work demands and the need to be present in the UK while complying with the rules.
Last updated: 15 February 2021