UK COVID Travel Restrictions Guide for Employers

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Tougher COVID travel rules are now in force for travel into and out of the UK.

Travellers are advised to check the latest regulations in advance of their departure date to ensure they are complying with all applicable testing, documentation and quarantine requirements.

 

UK COVID travel rules

Since 4 October 2021, a new system of COVID travel rules has been in place in the UK relating to the traveller’s country of departure, where the traveller has been in the previous 10 days, and the traveller’s vaccination status.

The traffic light system was also simplified, and now comprises red list countries, which are those considered by the UK Government to be ‘high risk’ areas in relation to COVID-19 infections, and the ‘rest of the world’.

 

Red list countries

From 8 December 2021, the following countries are now on the UK’s red list:

 

UK Red list countries & territories

Angola
Botswana
Eswatini
Lesotho
Malawi
Mozambique
Namibia
Nigeria
South Africa
Zambia
Zimbabwe

 

Under the latest rules, you should not travel to a red list country if you live in England.

If you have spent the previous ten days in a country or territory on the red list, you will only be allowed to enter the UK if you are a British or Irish national with residency rights in the UK.

 

Travel to the UK

Travellers to the UK should first verify if they have visited a red-list nation in the previous 10 days.

Second, travellers should confirm that they have been fully vaccinated as part of an approved vaccination programme.

Exemptions to the self-isolation requirement apply to certain specialist roles and occupations, although the Government has recently removed “business directors” from this list.

 

Arrivals from red list countries

Unless the traveller holds a UK/Irish passport or a UK resident card, they will be denied entry to the UK if they have been present in any red list country or territory in the previous 10 days.

Before entering the UK, all arrivals must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 48 hours of the travel date.

Up to 48 hours prior to arrival, all passengers have to complete a passenger locator form.

All arrivals into the UK will be required to quarantine in a government-run hotel, irrespective of their vaccination status. They will also be required to undergo two COVID tests at their own expense. The Test to Release scheme will not be available to those in quarantine.

 

Fully vaccinated arrivals who have not been present in a red list country in the previous 10 days

Travellers who have not been present in a red list country the 10 days prior to arriving in the UK and who are fully vaccinated under an approved programme may travel to the UK, subject to the following conditions:

  • Before entering the UK, all arrivals must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 48 hours of the travel date.
  • Up to 48 hours prior to arrival, all passengers must complete the passenger locator form.
  • On day two, all arrivals must perform a PCR test and self-isolate at home until the results are negative.

 

Arrivals who have not been present in a red list country in the previous 10 days who are not fully vaccinated

Travellers who have not been present in a red list country in the last 10 days and who have not been completely vaccinated under an approved programme can travel to the UK subject to the following:

  • Before entering the UK, all arrivals must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 48 hours of the travel date.
  • Up to 48 hours prior to arrival, all passengers must complete the passenger locator form.
  • All arrivals must self-isolate at home or wherever they are staying for ten days.
  • On days two and eight, all newcomers must take a PCR test.
  • If a day five test is conducted and the result is negative, self-isolation can be ended sooner.

 

Travel out of the UK

It is the responsibility of outbound travellers to check any travel or entry restrictions imposed within their country of destination. Travellers should also check with airlines as to their procedures regarding testing before allowing a passenger to board.

 

Employer considerations

Since the pandemic, employers have received increasing numbers of requests from staff to work from overseas. In addition to key employment and tax issues of remote overseas working, these latest rule changes present an increased risk of immigration and visa issues, for example if a worker is stranded abroad and unable to travel back to the UK ahead of visa expiry.

In an important change to the rules, corporate directors can no longer fall within the exception from the self-isolation regulations, meaning they must now self-isolate or quarantine. The additional timescales and expense will need to be factored in when planning business travel. This is likely to deter a lot of short-term overseas business travel while the quarantine requirements apply.

Because the regulations governing foreign travel to and from the United Kingdom change so regularly, if you are planning overseas travel, it is critical that you keep up with the latest information and be aware that you may need to make last-minute modifications to your plans.

Employers should take advice as to potential alternative exemptions which may apply for certain business travellers and visitors, and for advice on how to meet overseas travel needs while current restrictions apply.

For guidance on the latest UK travel rules, or any aspect of business travel and corporate immigration, contact us.

Last updated: 9 December 2021

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

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