Mandatory COVID-19
testing introduced
for UK arrivals

The government has announced that from 4am on 18 January 2021, all international arrivals to England, including UK nationals, will be required to present a negative test for COVID-19 before travelling. Anyone arriving in England without proof of a negative test result could face a fine of £500.

All inbound passengers arriving in England by boat, plane or train will need to take a test in the three days before departing the country they are in. The requirement has been introduced to help bolster border measures and protect the UK against new strains of COVID-19 which have been identified internationally.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We already have significant measures in place to prevent imported cases of COVID-19, but with new strains of the virus developing internationally we must take further precautions.

Taken together with the existing mandatory self-isolation period for passengers returning from high-risk countries, pre-departure tests will provide a further line of defence – helping us control the virus as we roll out the vaccine at pace over the coming weeks.”

What is the latest travel advice for the UK?

National lockdown restrictions enforced in the UK on 6 January 2021 mean that travel is currently only permitted for a very limited set of circumstances, including travelling for work.

Those who are permitted to travel will need to take a COVID-19 test regardless of where they are departing from, even if a country is on the government’s travel corridor list. All passengers arriving from countries not on the travel corridor list will still be required to self-isolate for ten days after arriving in the UK, regardless of test result.

Passengers will still need to fill in a passenger locator form and will be subject to national lockdown restrictions upon arrival. The UK Border Force will be conducting spot checks at the border to ensure passengers are complying with the rules, and an immediate fine of £500 will apply to those who fail to comply with the regulations on pre-departure testing.

What type of test is required?

It is the traveller’s responsibility to find a test provider and ensure the test meets the standards for pre-departure testing. The test must meet performance standards of  ≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml. This could include a nucleic acid test or an antigen test.

Test results must be provided in either English, French or Spanish and you must present the original test result certificate, including the following information:

  • Your name, matching the name on your travel documents
  • Your age or date of birth
  • The result of the test
  • The date the test sample was taken
  • The name and contact details of the test provider, and the test device used.

Test results can be provided as a physical printed document or a digital version via email or text message which you can show on your phone.

Who is exempt from the testing requirement?

A limited number of passengers will be exempt from the testing requirement, including:

  • Children under 11
  • Those who are exempt for medical reasons, such as:
    • If you have a medical condition which means a test cannot be taken
    • If you are travelling to the UK or accompanying someone travelling to the UK for urgent medical treatment
  • Passengers who began their journey to England from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Ascension, Falkland Islands or St Helena.
  • Those working in the following exempt occupations:
    • Border and customs officials
    • Channel tunnel system workers
    • Defence personnel, visiting forces and government contractors
    • Hauliers
    • Air, maritime and rail crew
    • Civil aviation inspectors
    • People transporting human cells and blood products
    • Seamen and masters and inspectors and surveyors of ships
    • Specialist technical workers doing emergency works

What’s next?

Smith Stone Walters would advise anyone planning on travelling to the UK to check the website for the latest guidance before departing. More information on the testing requirements and exemptions can be found here.

Speak to an immigration expert

SSW will continue to provide updates on the latest immigration and visa advice in relation to COVID-19. If you need some more clarity on the current guidelines, or if you need assistance with managing your business’s immigration needs during this time, we are here to help.

Our team of immigration experts can provide up to date, practical advice on a range of immigration areas, helping you to work around barriers and achieve your global mobility goals. To speak to an advisor, please contact us today.

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