Amber list scrapped
under new UK
travel rules

From 4am on Monday 4 October 2021, the UK travel rules have been simplified as COVID-19 restrictions on international travel continue to ease.

Since May 2021, the UK has operated a ‘traffic light system’ to set out the rules for individuals travelling abroad. The system previously categorised countries under three lists: a red list for the highest risk countries, an amber list for medium risk countries, and a green list for the lowest risk countries. Those arriving in England from abroad were required to follow certain procedures depending on the category of the country or countries they had been in before arrival.

Under the new rules, the ‘amber list’ has been scrapped entirely, and instead all countries and territories are now categorised as either ‘red’ or ‘rest of the world’. The changes open up the UK to millions of international passengers for quarantine-free travel, with fully vaccinated residents of over 50 countries now permitted to travel like fully vaccinated UK travelers.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We are accelerating towards a future where travel continues to reopen safely and remains open for good, and today’s rule changes are good news for families, businesses and the travel sector.

Our priority remains to protect public health but, with more than 8 in 10 people now fully vaccinated, we are able to take these steps to lower the cost of testing and help the sector to continue in its recovery.”

The new UK travel rules are more relaxed for those that have been fully vaccinated under a UK government approved vaccination programme at least 14 days before arriving in England.

New UK travel rules explained

The new simplified travel system means that eligible fully vaccinated passengers and eligible under-18s returning from over 50 countries and territories not on the red list, can do so without needing to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test or a day 8 test. Eligible passengers will also not need to undertake a 10-day self-isolation period, making it easier for those travelling for business or leisure trips.

The new rules also mean that from later in October, eligible fully vaccinated passengers with an approved vaccine and a recognised certificate from a country not on the red list will be able to replace their day 2 test with a cheaper lateral flow test.

What you need to do before you travel and after you arrive in England depends if you are fully vaccinated or not.

If you are fully vaccinated, you must:

  • Book and pay for a day 2 COVID-19 test to be taken after you arrive in England
  • Complete a passenger locator form in the 48 hours before you arrive in England.

If you are not fully vaccinated, you must:

  • Take a COVID-19 test in the 3 days before you travel to England
  • Book and pay for day 2 and day 8 COVID-19 tests to be taken after you arrive in England
  • Complete a passenger locator form in the 48 hours before you arrive in England
  • Quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days after you arrive in England
  • Take your pre-booked day 2 and day 8 tests

If you need to quarantine, you may be able to end quarantine early if you pay for a private COVID-19 test through the Test to Release scheme.

Anyone testing positive will need to self-isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test, at no additional cost.

What qualifies as ‘fully vaccinated’?

Under the UK travel rules, you are considered ‘fully vaccinated’ if you have had a complete course of an approved vaccine at least 14 days before you arrive in England. The day you had your final dose does not count as one of the 14 days.

The vaccine must be administered under either:

Even if you are not fully vaccinated, the fully vaccinated rules apply if you:

  • Are under 18 and resident in the UK or one of the approved countries
  • Are taking part in an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial in the UK or the USA (US residents only for USA trials)
  • Cannot have a COVID-19 vaccination for a medical reason which has been approved by a clinician under the new medical exemptions process, and you are resident in England

You will be required to provide proof of your vaccination status when travelling. If you are unable to provide proof, you must follow the travel rules for non-vaccinated people.

Red list travel rules

Different rules apply for passengers who have been in a red list country in the 10 days before arriving in England. If you have been in or travelled through a country or territory on the red list in the 10 days before you arrive in England, you will only be allowed to enter the UK if either:

  • You are a British or Irish National
  • You have residence rights in the UK

Before travelling to England from a red list country, you must:

  • Take a COVID-19 test in the 3 days before you travel
  • Book a quarantine hotel package, including 2 COVID-19 tests
  • Complete a passenger locator form.

When arriving in England from a red list country, you must quarantine in a managed hotel, even if you are fully vaccinated. You can check which countries and territories are currently on the red list here.

Get the latest travel advice

The information in this article is correct at the time of publication. However, please note that travel guidance is subject to change at short notice by the government. With this in mind, Smith Stone Walters recommends checking the website for the latest advice before travelling.

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