A number of restrictions on travel to the United Kingdom (UK) have been introduced as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The rules and regulations that have been implemented are designed to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus from person to person and prevent further rises in cases.
UK travel restrictions due to COVID-19 mean that arrivals from many countries must have additional documentation and agree to undergo quarantine for a predetermined period of time.
This guide outlines the current rules and regulations for travelling to the UK from different countries during the pandemic.
What are the UK travel restrictions?
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has imposed 2 main travel restrictions as part of its strategy to control the COVID-19 outbreak in the country in addition to the usual UK visa requirements.
Firstly, all travellers entering the country must have a completed “Public Health Passenger Locator Form”. This declaration form can be found online and must be filled out and printed within 48 hours prior to arriving in the UK.
The passenger must provide the following information:
- Personal information, including a means of contact
- Details of the journey, including arrival and departure
- Address where the individual will be staying in the UK
The form must be presented along with the traveller’s passport at border control.
Secondly, passengers arriving in the UK from the majority of countries and territories are obliged to undergo quarantine for a minimum of 2 weeks. However, certain locations are exempt from this requirement.
Existing travel regulations continue, such as the obligation for nationals of certain countries to obtain a UK tourist visa in advance.
UK quarantine travel rules
Travellers coming from most parts of the world must self-isolate for 14 days after arriving in the UK. They must specify the address where they will be staying in the “Public Health Passenger Locator Form”.
Those caught breaching quarantine may be subject to fines and/or imprisonment.
However, the UK has opened a number of “travel corridors” with certain countries, allowing people to travel from these locations without having to self-isolate.
Passengers arriving from the following countries and territories do not have to self-isolate when they arrive in the UK:
- Akrotiri and Dhekelia
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bonaire, St Eustatius, and Saba
- British Antarctic Territory
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Channel Islands
- Czech Republic
- Falkland Islands
- Faroe Islands
- French Polynesia
- Hong Kong
- The Isle of Man
- Macao (Macau)
- New Caledonia
- New Zealand
- Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno Islands
- San Marino
- South Korea
- South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
- St Barthélemy
- St Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Pierre and Miquelon
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Vatican City
However, anyone who has spent time in a country not on this “green list” within the past 14 days must also self-isolate for 2 weeks.
Do I need to quarantine when entering the UK from Ireland?
At present, the Republic of Ireland is on the “green list” for travel to the UK. This means that travellers entering the United Kingdom from this country do not need to quarantine themselves upon arrival.
However, an exception to this is if a traveller has spent time in another country that is not on the list within the 2 weeks prior to arrival in the UK. In this case, the individual must self-isolate for 14 days.
Northern Ireland is politically part of the United Kingdom and there is no quarantine requirement for individuals travelling from this region to the other constituent countries of the UK (England, Scotland, and Wales).
Do British citizens need to quarantine when returning to the UK?
The same rules apply to British citizens as to any other traveller.
UK nationals returning to the country from a destination with a travel corridor do not need to undergo quarantine.
However, British citizens returning from a country not on the “green list” must self-isolate for 14 days.
Future requirements for entering the UK
Once the UK completes its exit from the European Union (Brexit), there are plans to update visa policy for foreign nationals visiting the country. This will mean that the documentation required may change for some travellers.
There are plans to introduce an Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) for the UK, modeled on the US ESTA. This will likely become a new requirement for visitors from countries that are currently visa-exempt and may include citizens of EU member states.
The details have not yet been finalised, but the digital system is designed to improve travel security. Authorisation to enter the UK will be easily obtainable via a streamlined EVW online application form.
Further details about the EVW for the UK will be announced in the near future.