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Changes to travel requirements on entering the UK

It is hard, but essential to keep track of the changing rules, regulations and guidance regarding international travel to and from the UK. 

In particular, the Department of Transport updated its guidance on 13th January for those who wish to travel to the UK.  From 4am on 18 January 2021, if you do not present proof of a negative test result, you may not be able to board and could be fined £500 on arrival into England.

What should I do?

  • Take a coronavirus test before you travel to England
  • From 4am on Monday 18 January 2021, you must have proof of a negative coronavirus (COVID-19) test to travel to England.
  • Complete a passenger locator form before you travel to England.

What are the test requirements?

You must take a test even if:

  • you are a UK citizen
  • you are coming from a country on the travel corridors list
  • You must take the test in the 3 days before you start your journey to England.

For example, if you travel on Friday, you must take a test on the Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. 

You can choose to take a test:

  • in the place where you start your journey
  • in another country on your way to England (although if you plan to take a test on your way to England, you must make sure that this is possible before you set out. Some countries have entry restrictions in place, which mean you may not be able to get tested there).  If you do not have proof of a test because you planned to get tested on your journey, but you were not able to do so, you will be allowed to board. But you may be fined £500 on arrival in England because you don’t have a valid test result.
  • You must make sure that the test provider can meet 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 tests such as:
      • a nucleic acid test, including a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or derivative technologies, including loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests
      • an antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device
  • Your test result must be in either English, French or Spanish. Translations will not be accepted, and you must provide the original test result certificate. It must include the following information:
    • your name, which should match the name on your travel documents
    • your date of birth or age
    • the result of the test
    • the date the test sample was collected or received by the test provider
    • the name of the test provider and their contact details
    • the name of the test device
  • Your test result can be provided as a physical, printed document, or via email or text message, which you can show on your phone. Make sure that your device is charged.

It is your responsibility to ensure the test meets the minimum standards for sensitivity, specificity and viral load details so you must check with your test provider that it meets those standards.

Where information about providers of tests is available locally, FCDO travel advice pages will be updated with this information. If you need consular assistance, you should contact the nearest Consulate, Embassy or High Commission.

You will need to present valid proof of your negative test before you board to travel to England.  If your test result is positive, you must not travel. You must follow local rules and guidance for positive coronavirus cases.  If the result is inconclusive, you must take another test.

Connecting flights

You should get a test within 3 days of your final departure point to England. But if you have one or more connecting flights to the UK, you should take a test as close as possible to the date of the first flight - if the connecting flights were booked as a single passenger record.

You don’t need to take a test if:

  • You began your journey to England from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Jersey or Guernsey, Ascension, Falkland Islands, St Helena.  (Until 4am Thursday 21 January 2021 you also do not need to take a test if you began your journey to England from Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia or Barbados)
  • You are aged under 11
  • you are travelling to the UK:
    • for urgent medical treatment or are accompanying someone who is travelling for urgent medical treatment, and it is not reasonably practicable for you to obtain a negative COVID-19 test in the 3 days before departure
    • if you have a medical condition which means you cannot take a test – you must present a note from a medical practitioner at check in and to Border Force staff on arrival in England

People doing the following jobs do not need to take a test:

  • border and customs officials
  • channel tunnel system workers
  • hauliers
  • air, maritime and rail crew
  • civil aviation inspectors
  • people transporting human cells and blood products
  • seafarers and masters, inspectors and surveyors of ships
  • specialist technical workers doing emergency works

Also, in limited circumstances: 

  • defence personnel, visiting forces and government contractors
  • foreign government officials
  • UK government officials conducting essential state business, essential government work or essential policing

If you have been somewhere that is not on the travel corridors list in the 10 days before you arrive in England, you will need to self-isolate, regardless of your pre-departure test result. Read more about travel corridors and how long you need to self-isolate.

These notes do not contain or constitute legal advice, and no reliance should be placed on them. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to speak to your usual contact at Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP.


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