COVID-19: Travel and quarantine exemptions for ‘senior executives’

Under the current travel rules, those travelling to England from overseas are required to complete a passenger locator form and provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before departing. Depending on which countries and territories you have been in or travelled through before arriving in England, you may also need to book further tests and quarantine in a hotel or other accommodation on arrival.

However, certain individuals are exempt from some or all of the COVID-19 travel and entry requirements based on their job. A full list of exempt occupations can be found on the website here.

Many of the exemptions cover those working in the medical or transport sectors, as well as specialist technical workers and government officials. However, you may also be exempt from quarantine requirements if you are a ‘senior executive bringing significant economic benefit to the UK.’

The exemption is designed to enable certain activities that will help to preserve UK jobs and investment whilst lockdown measures and travel restrictions remain in place. However, there are strict requirements that senior executives must fulfill before and during their stay in the UK in order to use the exemption.

Who is exempt?

The exemption covers two types of senior executives:

  • Multinational executives – Executives who are based overseas and are part of a multinational firm visiting their UK-based branches or subsidiaries.
  • International executives – Executives of overseas companies normally based overseas who are seeking to establish a new business within the UK or make a financial investment in a UK based business.

You will only qualify for the exemption if the activities you intend to undertake cannot be done remotely or by someone else on your behalf. Senior executives are classed as bringing ‘significant economic benefit’ if the work they are doing has a greater than 50% chance of creating or preserving at least 500 UK-based jobs in either:

  • An existing UK-based business with at least 500 employees
  • A new UK business within 2 years of the date you arrive in the UK.

Before you travel

Senior executives wishing to travel to England must take the following steps before departing:

  • Take a COVID-19 test
  • Book tests to take after arrival in England, if you will be staying for two days or longer
  • Complete the passenger locator form
  • Notify the government that you intend to use the exemption and obtain a letter from the government confirming that you meet the eligibility criteria

Notifying the government

In order to apply to use the exemption, you must complete a Business, Jobs and Investment Exemption Notification form with your details, your employer’s details and the reason you are applying for an exemption. The completed form must be sent via email to Each senior executive wishing to use the exemption must complete their own form.

You will receive a response within five working days. You may be asked for further information to demonstrate that you meet the criteria. You will not be able to use the exemption without written confirmation from the government showing that you meet the criteria.

After you arrive

Upon arrival in England, senior executives will need to present the government letter to Border Force officials.

You will be required to self-isolate except when you are carrying out activities that are classed as delivering significant economic benefit. This includes travelling to and from the place in England where you are working. You must only meet others as required by the exempted business activities you are undertaking, and all meetings should be carried out in a COVID secure way.

During your stay in the UK, you must comply with national and local COVID-19 restrictions and consult the NHS website if you feel unwell.

Which business activities qualify?

Senior executives wishing to use the exemption must be carrying out activities that will directly benefit the UK economy. Routine business activities such as meetings, site visits and discussing business ideas will not qualify as the outcome of those activities will not be considered to be of significant economic benefit.

A non-exhaustive list of potentially eligible activities highlighted by the government includes:

  • Attending a board meeting to take a decision on whether or not to make a new investment in the UK
  • Attending a company site to inform a decision whether or not to continue investing in a subsidiary company (which has at least 500 employees) and its site
  • Meeting with a potential investor to decide which UK sites to purchase, where a substantial business plan has previously been developed to set up a business and create over 500 jobs in the UK within the next two years
  • A site visit by a potential investor who will decide at the end of the visit whether or not to invest in that company (which has at least 500 employees).

Tailored business immigration support

For more information on moving your employees across borders during COVID-19, please speak to a Smith Stone Walters immigration consultant.

We can provide up to date advice and practical support to help your business reach its global mobility goals.

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