COVID-19: Who can
currently travel to
the UK?

As the UK continues to fight the spread of COVID-19 and the threat of new variants from overseas, there are ongoing restrictions in place to regulate travel to and from the UK.

The government continues to advise against non-essential international travel, and has strict requirements in place to test and track those passengers arriving in the UK for work or other essential reasons. The UK Border Force is conducting spot checks at the border, and passengers who fail to comply with the rules could face a fine of £500.

Under the current guidelines, travelers are required to take a COVID-19 test and complete a passenger locator form before travelling to the UK. Once passengers have arrived in the UK, they must also quarantine for 10 days and take a COVID-19 test on day 2 and 8 of their quarantine period.

However, certain passengers may be exempt from these travel restrictions based on their occupation and their reasons for travelling to the UK.

Who is exempt from travel restrictions?

The testing and quarantining requirements do not apply to passengers arriving in the UK from the Common Travel Area (Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man). You must have spent the last 10 days in one of these places, or the UK in order to be exempt.

The government has also published a list of jobs or reasons for travel to the UK which may qualify for an exemption from one or more of the COVID-19 related travel restrictions.

The categories currently on the exemption list are as follows:

  • Aerospace engineers
  • Aircraft pilots and crew
  • BBC broadcasting transmission network and services
  • Border security duties – UK and non-UK officials and contractors
  • Bus and coach drivers
  • Channel Tunnel system workers
  • Civil aviation inspectors
  • Clinical trials or studies
  • Crown servants or government contractors
  • Data infrastructure maintenance
  • Defence personnel, visiting forces and government contractors
  • Diplomatic missions, international organisations and conferences
  • Downstream oil facility workers
  • Drivers of goods vehicles
  • Electronic communications networks
  • Elite sportspersons – Domestic and international
  • Environment Agency relating to flood and coastal erosion risk management
  • Eurostar International and Eurotunnel workers
  • High Speed 2 rail workers
  • International prison escorts
  • IT and telecoms workers
  • Medical evacuation
  • Medical treatment
  • Medicines – human and veterinary
  • Network Rail workers
  • Nuclear personnel and nuclear emergency responders
  • Offshore oil and gas
  • OPCW and IAEA inspectors
  • Postal workers
  • Quality assurance inspectors for human and veterinary medicines
  • Regular work abroad
  • Regular work in the UK, living abroad
  • Representatives of a foreign country or territory or British overseas territories
  • Seamen and masters and inspectors and surveyors of ships
  • Seasonal agricultural workers
  • Specialist technical workers – (infrastructure, waste, goods and services)
  • Transiting through the UK
  • Transporting human cells or blood
  • Water supplies and sewerage services workers

There are different requirements for each category listed above. Smith Stone Walters recommends checking the government website here for the most up to date advice before travelling.

At the border

As well as providing proof of a negative COVID-19 test and completing a passenger locator form where applicable, some passengers arriving to the UK under one of the above exemption categories may be required to provide additional evidence to officials at the border.

This could be in the form of a letter from your employer which states:

  • Your personal details such as name and address
  • Your employer’s contact details
  • What work you’ll be doing.

Again, the evidence requirements vary based on the job you are doing, therefore we recommend all passengers check the website before travelling.

Red list countries

During the ongoing pandemic, the UK government is maintaining a ‘red list’ of certain countries deemed to be high risk for COVID-19 variants. Travel to the UK from any of the red list countries is currently forbidden, except for British or Irish nationals, or anyone with residence rights in the UK.

The government guidance states that anyone who has been in a travel ban red list country in the 10 days before arriving in the UK will need to quarantine in a government approved hotel for 10 days. However, these red list restrictions may not apply for certain travelers if they are on the list of exempt occupations.

The countries currently on the red list are:

  • Angola
  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Burundi
  • Cape Verde
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Ecuador
  • Eswatini
  • Ethiopia
  • French Guiana
  • Guyana
  • Lesotho
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Oman
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Qatar
  • Rwanda
  • Seychelles
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • Suriname
  • Tanzania
  • United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Get the latest immigration updates

Due to the ongoing pandemic, UK immigration rules and travel restrictions are updated on a regular basis. Smith Stone Walters strongly advises employers and travellers to keep up to date with the latest advice in your destination country.

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