COVID and travel


28 October 2021

COVID travel restrictions to the UK and updates to international travel are covered in this article.

COVID travel restrictions to the UK

Exceptional Assurance deadline extended

Earlier this month the Home Office released updated guidance on applying for a COVID-19 Exceptional Assurance (EA). Individuals with a visa, leave to remain/enter or existing EA that expires before 30 November 2021, may request additional time to stay in the UK if:

  • they have taken all reasonable steps to leave the UK on time but are prevented from doing so due to COVID-19; and
  • the country or territory to which the individual is trying to return to is currently red listed OR is a green list country but where that nation has closed their borders or where quarantine facilities are temporarily over-subscribed.

Individuals can submit their request for EA via email. Further information can be found on the Government website.

It is important to note that EA is not considered a formal grant of leave, but rather a short-term protection against any adverse immigration consequences after an individual’s leave has expired whilst they make arrangements to leave the UK.

It is possible to switch visa categories from exceptional assurance but the guidance no longer allows exceptional switching from visas which usually require the individual to apply outside the UK, for example from a visit visa or a Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa to a Skilled Worker visa.

Updates to international travel

UK Government reduces ‘red list’ to just seven countries

As of 4:00am on Monday 11 October 2021, 47 countries including South Africa, Brazil and Mexico were removed from the red list, leaving just seven:

  • Colombia
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Haiti
  • Panama
  • Peru; and
  • Venezuela.

All passengers (whether fully vaccinated or not) arriving into England from the above countries, or those who have been in any of the above countries in the last 10 days, will have to stay at a managed quarantine hotel at a price of more than £2,000 for 10 days upon their arrival.

Approved COVID-19 vaccines 

The Government has expanded their inbound vaccination policy to include recognition of an additional 28 countries. The policy now covers over 100 countries and territories and eligible fully vaccinated passengers will be treated the same as those vaccinated in the UK.  Eligible fully vaccinated passengers who have not been in a red list country in the 10 days before their arrival into England no longer need to take a pre-departure test, a post-arrival test on day eight or self-isolate upon their arrival.

Lateral flow tests for vaccinated travellers

From 4:00am on 24 October 2021, fully vaccinated arrivals will be able to take a lateral flow test on or before day two of their arrival instead of a PCR test. This will significantly reduce the costs of testing for those considered fully vaccinated.

Passengers will need to take a photo of their lateral flow test result and send it back to their private testing provider for verification. Anyone who tests positive will need to self-isolate and take a free NHS confirmatory PCR test.

These articles are from the October 2021 issue of Employment and Immigration Law Update, our monthly newsletter for HR professionals. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website. For further information please contact a member of Birketts' Immigration Team.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at October 2021.

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