International travel, to and from the UK, is currently only permitted under very limited circumstances.
Even once the current lockdown rules are relaxed and the stay at home requirement ends on 29 March 2021, it will continue to be unlawful to leave the UK unless you have a reasonable excuse, permitted by law.
This has been reinforced in England by a new requirement from 8 March 2021, to complete a travel declaration form explaining the reason for travel.
The declaration form may be requested at the port of departure and we recommend that you also carry evidence to support the reason for travel. It is a criminal offence to enter a departure port to travel internationally without a completed form and so this can lead to a fine, in addition to a fine for breaching the current stay at home requirements. If you are under 18 or lack capacity to complete the form, this should be done on your behalf by the responsible adult travelling with you.
Some individuals are exempt from completing the declaration form because of the job they do. There is a list of jobs that qualify for travel exemptions – you need to check this carefully to see if you are exempt from completing the form or not.
There is currently a lot of speculation in the press about whether or not overseas holidays will be permitted this summer. The Government roadmap for relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions stipulated that the earliest potential date for international travel will be 17 May 2021. However, this is subject to advice from the Global Travel Task force. That advice is due on 12 April 2021. Any decision is expected to take into account:
- the global and domestic epidemiological picture
- the prevalence and location of any ‘variants of concern’
- the progress of vaccine rollouts here and abroad
- what more the government has learned about the efficacy of vaccines on variants, and the impact on transmission, hospitalisation and deaths.
Meanwhile the Government continues to monitor the situation in different countries and we have seen some changes to the ‘red list’ this month.
Portugal (including Madeira and Azores) and Mauritius were removed from the red list from 4am on Friday 19 March 2021. This means that anyone that enters the UK from Portugal or Mauritius will no longer be required to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days, and will instead, be allowed to quarantine at home. COVID-19 tests, will still be required on day two and day eight of quarantining. Both tests must be negative in order for the individual to be able to leave the place of quarantine after 10 days. However, the quarantine period can be shortened via the test to release scheme.
Meanwhile Ethiopia, Oman, Somalia and Qatar are all now subject to travel bans. This is to reduce the risk of new variants entering the UK from abroad. Direct flights from these countries to the UK are suspended. There are restrictions so that only British and Irish nationals and residents may enter the UK after travelling from those countries and anyone who is allowed to enter the UK will be subject to the hotel quarantine regime.
These articles are from the March 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 March 2021.