What are the rules for travelling to the UK from a non-red list country?

What are the rules for travelling to the UK from a non-red list country/the “rest of the world”?

This information was correct as of 5 October 2021 but is subject to possible changes.

This page sets out the law and guidance which applies in England only.

What are the rules about travelling to the UK?

The rules that set out what you can and cannot do when you travel into the UK are contained in a piece of legislation called the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel and Operator Liability) (England) Regulations 2021.

These regulations were changed significantly on 4 October 2021. Under these new regulations, there are 3 sets of rules depending on whether you are travelling from a country on the red list country or the rest of the world, and whether you are vaccinated or unvaccinated.

We have produced an article explaining the red list rules here.

This article will cover the rules when travelling from the rest of the world, depending on whether you are vaccinated or unvaccinated.

The Government has also produced guidance on this, which is available here.

How did the green list rules change on 4 October?

On 4 October 2021 the new regulations removed the green and amber lists. As the red list has remained, government guidance refers to the “red list” and the “rest of the world”. If the country you are travelling from does not appear on the red list, it will be on the “rest of the world” list. In this article we will refer to this as the non-red list.

If you have spent time in a red list country within 10 days before arriving in the UK, you will be required to follow the red list country rules. This includes travelling through a red list country by plane, train or boat if anyone entered the vessel while you were in the red list country. Driving through a red list country also means you have to follow the red list country rules.

The rules for the non-red list depend on whether you are fully vaccinated or not.

Note that you do not have to be vaccinated if you:

  1. are under 18, or
  2. have been advised by a doctor that you have a medical exemption which means that you should not be vaccinated (and can show this through the NHS COVID Pass).

In those cases, you will be able to follow the rules as if you are fully vaccinated.

What does fully vaccinated mean?

For these travel regulations, to be “fully vaccinated” you need to have taken both doses of an “approved vaccination programme”. For the Janssen vaccine, 1 dose is enough. This means you need to have been vaccinated by:

  • the UK’s vaccination programme through the NHS
  • the UK’s overseas vaccination programme
  • a vaccination scheme in an EU country (plus Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and the Vatican City) which is authorised by European Medicines Agency or Swissmedic
  • a vaccination scheme in the US which is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  • a vaccination scheme in Australia which is approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration
  • a vaccination scheme in Canada which is approved by Health Canada
  • the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna or Janssen vaccines (you can take 2 of the same or 2 different ones) from a relevant public health body in
    • Antigua and Barbuda
    • Barbados
    • Bahrain
    • Brunei
    • Dominica
    • Israel
    • Japan
    • Kuwait
    • Malaysia
    • New Zealand
    • Qatar
    • Saudi Arabia
    • Singapore
    • South Korea
    • Taiwan
    • United Arab Emirates

You can also be part of an approved vaccine clinical trial in the US, Canada or Australia.

The final vaccine of your chosen programme must have been taken at least 14 clear days before you travel to the UK.

As mentioned above, you do not have to be fully vaccinated if you:

  1. are under 18, or
  2. have been advised by a doctor that you have a medical exemption which means that you should not be vaccinated (and can show this through the NHS COVID Pass).

How do I show that I’m fully vaccinated?

For the UK vaccination programme, you can access the NHS COVID Pass through the NHS App. This is not the same as the NHS COVID-19 app, which ‘pings’ if you come into contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. The NHS App can be found here.

To use the NHS App, you will need to create an NHS log-in, which will link the app to your vaccine record. For the international travel COVID Pass you will need to verify your identity. This process involves taking a picture of your photographic ID and recording a video of your face. The lack of transparency surrounding this process has raised some questions about how this information is used. There is currently no evidence that this data is used unlawfully. However, if you do not have photographic ID or feel uncomfortable using that system, there is an option to verify your identity without using photographic ID or recording your face.

Note that this is separate to the domestic COVID Pass, which can be used for venues within the UK. For a domestic COVID Pass you simply need to provide your mobile phone number, which will be matched to the mobile phone number on your GP records. You cannot use a domestic COVID Pass to show your vaccine status for international travel. However, you may need to use this pass to show a medical exemption (see below).

You can also access a version of either Pass through the NHS website. If you prefer, you can also request a paper copy. You can find more information on that process here.

The COVID Pass does not give the person scanning it access to your medical records. It shows whether you are considered fully vaccinated or not.

If you were vaccinated outside of the UK, vaccination programmes in other countries each have their own systems to prove vaccination. More information can be found here.

How do I show that I have a medical exemption?

If you have a medical exemption then you can apply for a COVID Pass which shows this by calling 119. They will provide a form which you will need to complete and then give to your GP. Your GP will then complete the form, confirm your medical exemptions and submit this to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). You will then receive a letter either confirming or declining your medical exemption, and your COVID Pass will be updated accordingly.

This will not give the person scanning it access to your medical records or information about your medical exemption. It shows whether you have one or not.

It’s unclear whether your medical exemption will be shown on the international travel Pass or the domestic Pass. It may be that you have to show your domestic Pass to show your medical exemption, even during international travel.

Government guidance states that it should take 2 to 3 weeks to receive a response after you apply. It is unclear if this means 2 to 3 weeks from when you pass the form to your GP, or 2 to 3 weeks from when they submit it to DHSC. It seems safer to make the call to 119 a month before travelling.

What do I need to do if I am fully vaccinated?

If you are travelling from a non-red list country and are fully vaccinated, then you need to do 3 things:

  1. Book a travel test package, and take the covid test
  2. Fill out a passenger locator form
  3. Carry proof of your vaccination status.

Before you travel to the UK, you must book a travel test package for yourself and any child aged 5 or over with whom you are travelling. If you are fully vaccinated, this will only include a “day 2” covid test. You can find a test provider here.

You need to take this test on or before day 2 after you arrive in the UK (the day you arrive is day 0). You do not need to quarantine unless the test result is positive. See below for what to do if this happens. If your test is inconclusive, you can order a replacement day 2 test, or quarantine as if it was positive.

If you are unable to take the test due to a reasonable excuse, you must take a replacement day 2 test as soon as the circumstances of the reasonable excuse cease to be relevant.

The form you must complete should include:

  • your personal details
  • details of your journey
  • the name of your travel test package provider and the booking reference number of your travel test package.

A full explanation of the information can be found in Schedule 6 of the regulations here.

You can fill the form out here.

An immigration officer can ask you for evidence that you have completed the form.

If you do not complete a passenger locator form before travelling and you don’t have a reasonable excuse for this, this is a criminal offence. It is also a criminal offence to knowingly or carelessly provide false or misleading information on your passenger locator form. In either case you may be fined or prosecuted.

As explained above, this proof will be different depending on where you were vaccinated.

Whichever proof is relevant, you must have it to hand so that you can show it when asked. The proof will need to show:

  • your full name
  • your date of birth
  • the vaccine brand, and manufacturer, which you received
  • the date of your vaccination for every dose
  • the country or territory in which you were vaccinated and/or the certificate issuer.

If you do not have this proof, or do not have proof which fulfils the above criteria, then you will be asked to follow the non-vaccinated rules.

What do I need to do if I am not fully vaccinated?

If you are travelling from a non-red list country and are not fully vaccinated, then you need to do 4 things:

  1. Take a coronavirus test before you travel
  2. Book a travel test package, and take the covid tests
  3. Fill out a passenger locator form
  4. Quarantine at home for 10 days

As described above, being fully vaccinated for travelling means fulfilling specific criteria. You must have been on an approved vaccine programme and, whether it involved 2 vaccines or 1, you must have taken the final vaccine 14 days before travelling to the UK.

In addition, you must have documentary proof that you have been vaccinated. We provided information about this above.

If you do not fulfil these criteria, then you will not be considered “fully vaccinated” under these rules. This is the case even if you have had an unapproved vaccine, or have had an approved vaccine but can’t show proof.

You must take a coronavirus test, and receive a negative result, in the 3 days before your flight.

The test must be through a private provider (you cannot use an NHS test) and must meet certain performance standards with regards to its accuracy. The regulations about which tests are compliant can be found here, and the government guidance can be found here.

If you receive a negative result, you must carry a notification of this negative result with you, either in paper or digital form.

The negative test result notification should be communicated in English, Spanish, or French and be shown on arrival.

This notification should contain the following information:

  1. the name of the person from whom the sample was taken
  2. that person’s date of birth or age
  3. the negative result of the test
  4. the date the test sample was collected or received by the test provider
  5. the name of the test provider and information sufficient to contact that provider
  6. a statement that the test was a PCR test, OR a statement of the name of the device that was used for the test.

If you fail to produce a notification of a negative test result, you can be fined.

Travel operators are required to make sure that people boarding their services to England have this kind of notification (unless they have a reasonable excuse or are exempt). This means that travel operators should deny boarding to passengers who are unable to show a negative notification.

If you receive a positive result, you therefore should not be allowed to board a vessel at all. If you are allowed to board, you will be liable to be fined when you are challenged for your negative result as you enter England. Please see below for the amounts of these fines.

Before you travel to the UK, you must book a travel test package for yourself and any child aged 5 or over with whom you are travelling. You can find a test provider here.

If you are travelling from a non-red list country and are not fully vaccinated then this package includes the 2 coronavirus tests that you will need to take during your 10-day quarantine at home.

You must take the first test on or before day 2 after you arrive in the UK, and a second test on or after day 8 after you arrive in the UK (the day you arrive is day 0 for this countdown). If you test positive in the day 2 test, you are not required to take the day 8 test, but you must continue quarantining for a further full 10 days from the date of the day 2 test.

If you test positive in the day 8 test, you must continue quarantining for a further full 10 days from the date of the day 8 test.

If you miss either test without a reasonable excuse, you may be fined. If you have a reasonable excuse, you must take the test as soon as the circumstances of the reasonable excuse cease to be relevant.

You can also choose to pay for an optional additional coronavirus test on or after day 5 following your arrival. If the test result is negative, you can stop quarantining as soon as you receive it. This is known as the “Test to Release” scheme. Regardless of the result of this test, you must still take your day 8 test as well.

The form you must complete should include:

  • your personal details
  • details of your journey
  • details of the address where you intend to quarantine
  • the name of your travel test package provider and the booking reference number of your travel test package.

A full explanation of the information can be found in Schedule 6 of the regulations here.

You can fill the form out here.

An immigration officer can ask you for evidence that you have completed the form.

If you do not complete a passenger locator form before travelling and you don’t have a reasonable excuse for this, this is a criminal offence. It is also a criminal offence to knowingly or carelessly provide false or misleading information on your passenger locator form. In either case you may be fined or prosecuted.

Once you are in the UK, you must travel directly to the place where you intend to quarantine. This should be the same address you specified in your passenger locator form. This can be:

  • your home
  • the home of a friend or family member
  • a hotel, bed and breakfast, or other holiday accommodation
  • (if you are an asylum seeker) asylum accommodation
  • (if you are on immigration bail) bail accommodation.

You must remain in quarantine for 10 days. This countdown starts from the day after you arrive in England (which is day 0 for this countdown). You must travel to your quarantine immediately upon arriving home, but your day of arrival will not count towards your 10 days.

You are allowed to self-isolate with:

  • any person you travelled to England with
  • anyone who resides in the home address you are quarantining in (and their carers)
  • anyone you need assistance from if you have a disability.

Note that if any of those people are vaccinated, they will not be required to quarantine, and will be allowed to come and go.

Additionally, you do not have to self-isolate from anyone who visits you in order to:

  • provide emergency assistance or urgent medical assistance or
  • provide personal care if you need their assistance with everyday tasks
  • provide urgent veterinary services
  • provide critical public services including social services and victims’ services.

During your 10-day quarantine period, you may only leave the place where you are quarantining for the purposes of:

  • travelling to leave the country (unless you test positive)
  • seeking urgent medical care, including medical care for your mental health
  • seeking urgent veterinary care
  • fulfilling a legal obligation, such as attending a court date
  • avoiding injury, illness or harm such as fleeing domestic violence
  • attending a funeral
  • moving to a different home where you have already specified this in your passenger locator form
  • taking a required coronavirus test.

The law also says you may leave your home “in exceptional circumstances” such as to:

  • Obtain basic necessities such as food and medical supplies for those in the same household (including any pets or animals in the household) where it is not possible to obtain these in any other manner
  • access critical public services, including social services and services for victims of a crime
  • to move to a different home that you have not specified in your passenger locator form, if it becomes very impractical to stay where you are staying).

The guidance states that, ideally, you should have basic necessities such as food delivered, but you can leave your home to get them if you are unable to arrange this.

If you do not quarantine in accordance with the above rules, this is a criminal offence and you may be fined or prosecuted.

What is a reasonable excuse for not taking a coronavirus test?

The regulations make some allowances for “reasonable excuses” for not booking or taking a test. If these circumstances apply in your case, then you will not have committed an offence if you fail to do so. However, as soon as the circumstances cease to apply, you will be expected to book or take a replacement test.

The list of excuses given in the regulations are non-exhaustive. This means that they are examples of the kind of excuses which would be accepted, but other excuses might be accepted if they are similar to those on the list, even if they are not exactly the same.

The reasonable excuses given in the regulations include:

  • being medically unfit (and having this confirmed by a doctor)
  • being unable to book or take a test due to a disability
  • requiring urgent medical treatment which took priority
  • a test was cancelled for reasons beyond your control
  • there was no reasonable access to the facilities needed to book or take a test in the country you have travelled from.

The regulations do not provide any information on “reasonable excuses” for failing to provide information on a passenger locator form.

What if I test positive, or the NHS Test & Trace tells me to self-isolate?

Whether you are fully vaccinated or not, one of your tests may come back positive, or you may be notified by NHS Test and Trace that someone you were in close contact with (e.g. on the same flight) has tested positive.

What this means for you changes depending on your vaccination status. You can find more information in our article about self-isolation here.

Who can enforce these rules?

These rules can be enforced by:

  • a police offer
  • a person designated by the Secretary of State, which may include a security guard.

Immigration officials also have powers to enforce some parts of these rules, if they reasonably suspect that you have travelled from or been in a red list country within the last 10 days.

What are the penalties if I don’t follow these rules?

If you travel from a non-red list country, without having travelled through a red or amber list country in the 10 days previous, then the requirements change depending on your vaccination status. However, if you do commit any relevant offences, the police may give you a “Fixed Penalty Notice” (FPN).

A FPN is essentially a fine. If you pay the fine within the time specified, you will not be prosecuted and it will not be recorded on your criminal record. If you don’t pay it, you may be prosecuted and have to go to court.

If you do not provide up to date information on your Passenger Locator Form, do not provide a negative Covid test without a reasonable excuse (if you are not fully vaccinated), knowingly provide false information, or obstruct an officer who is responding to any of these offences, the fine is:

  • £500 if this is your first and only offence
  • £1,000 for a second FPN for the same offence
  • £2,000 for a third FPN
  • £4,000 for a fourth and any subsequent offence.

If you do not possess or acquire a travel testing package for your Day 2 test (and a day 8 test, if you are not fully vaccinated), the fine is:

  • £1,000 if you entered the UK without one
  • £2,000 if you entered the UK without one and then did not purchase one as soon as you practically could when you entered the UK
  • £1,000 if you are responsible for an unaccompanied child and did not purchase one as soon as you practically could for them when you entered the UK.

If you fail to take your day 2 test (and/or day 8 test, if you are not fully vaccinated) as required under the rules, the fine is:

  • £1,000 for a first offence
  • £2,000 for a second offence.

If you had a reasonable excuse for not taking your test at the correct time, you should not get a FPN. However, if you did have a reasonable excuse at the time, but then your circumstances changed so you no longer have a reasonable excuse, you must then take a test as soon as practicable. Otherwise you can still be given the above fines.

If you are not fully vaccinated and fail to self-isolate without a reasonable excuse without a reasonable excuse, the fine is:

  • £1,000 if this is your first and only offence
  • £2,000 for a second FPN for the same offence
  • £4,000 for a third offence
  • £10,000 for any fourth and subsequent offence.

If you “wilfully obstruct” anyone enforcing the self-isolation rules (for example, a police officer), or fail to comply with a direction from an officer relating to these, the fine is:

  • £1,000

If you do not believe you should have received an FPN, you can challenge this in court. You would need to speak to a criminal defence solicitor.

For information on finding a solicitor, check our website.

Who is exempt from these rules?

The Government has provided a list of jobs that are exempt. See here for more information.

Doesn’t this breach my human rights?

Your human rights are set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR.) This is protected in UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA.) The ECHR is separate to the EU, so continues to apply despite Brexit.

  • Article 5 protects your right to liberty.
  • Article 8 protects your right to a private and family life.

This means that public authorities like police forces and border officials have to act in a way that doesn’t breach these rights. However, these rights can be restricted in certain circumstances.

The coronavirus regulations have been passed as emergency laws which allow for a restriction on certain rights in response to the current Coronavirus pandemic. The Government also have a duty to protect our right to life (Article 2 ECHR).

It is not yet clear whether these new travel regulations are a lawful and proportionate interference with our human rights. This must be determined by a court of law.

The Government and public authorities must also ensure they are complying with their duties under the Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act protects certain people from discrimination. For more information on this, see here.

Liberty will be publishing further advice on these rules as well as anything that Liberty is doing to campaign on them. Liberty has already stated that the hotel quarantine requirements at the expense of the traveller are disproportionate.

What are my rights on this?

Find out more about your rights and how the Human Rights Act protects them

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