UK traffic light system for travel


27 May 2021

On 7 May 2021, the Government announced that they will be introducing a traffic light system on travel in order to regulate international travel. This was implemented from 17 May 2021.

In accordance with the ‘traffic light system’, counties have been categorised as ‘green’, ‘amber’ and ‘red’, and each category has different travel rules which need to be followed. We have set out below the rules for travel for each category.

Red list countries

Only those who are British or Irish National or have residency rights in the UK will be allowed entry into England. Travelling to red list countries is not recommended for leisure, and anyone travelling to a red list country must ensure that they have a legally permitted reason to do so.

Anyone that has travelled to a red list country 10 days before entering England must ensure that they undertake the following steps:

  • take a COVID-19 test three days before travelling back to the UK
  • book a quarantine hotel package (which includes two COVID-19 tests, to take on day two and eight of their quarantine)
  • complete a passenger locator form.

Upon arrival in the UK, the individual must ensure they quarantine in a managed hotel for at least 10 days (11 nights).

Amber list countries

Anyone who has visited an amber listed country in the ten days before they arrive into England will need to ensure that they take the following steps: 

  • take a COVID-19 test three days before travelling to the UK
  • book and pay for a COVID-19 test to take on day two and day eight of quarantine 
  • complete a passenger locator form.

Upon arriving in England, anyone who has travelled to an amber listed country is required to either quarantine at home or in a place that they are staying for 10 days.

Those who have travelled to an amber listed country have the option to end their quarantine early if they pay for a private COVID-19 test through the Test to Release Scheme.

Whilst not illegal, the Government is continuing to advise against travel to amber and red list countries. The UK Government have committed to increased spot checking to ensure individuals are complying with quarantine obligations upon their return.

Green list countries

Travel to green list countries is unrestricted and travel for leisure/holiday purposes is permitted. There are currently only 12 countries on the green list – this includes Portugal, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

Anyone who has travelled to a green list country will need to ensure that they undertake the following steps before travelling to England:

  • take a COVID-19 test three days before travelling to the UK
  • book and pay for a day two COVID-19 test – to be taken after arrival in England 
  • complete a passenger locator form.

After arrival in the UK, anyone who has travelled to a green list country does not need to quarantine unless they have tested positive for COVID-19. Further, if NHS Test & Trace contacts you stating that you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, quarantine will be required.

A review of travel restrictions will take place every three weeks and countries may have their designation as green, amber or red changed.

This article is from the May 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 Sacha Wooldridge or another 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 May 2021.

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