What are the rules for travelling to the UK from an amber list country?
What are the rules for travelling to the UK from an amber list country?
This information was correct as of 19 July 2021 but is subject to possible changes.
This page sets out the law and guidance which applies in England only.
What are the rules that say I must quarantine when I return to the UK?
The rules that set out what you can and cannot do when you travel into England from abroad are contained in a piece of legislation called the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel and Operator Liability) (England) Regulations 2021.
A previous version of this legislation became law in June 2020, but that was amended a number of times to reflect the changing situation. On 17 May 2021, the Government repealed that legislation and brought in the current version.
The Government has also produced guidance on this, which is available here.
Government guidance sits alongside the rules and provides information in a format that is easier to read. However, government guidance is not legally enforceable in the same way that legislation is. When the guidance is summarising law, then you must follow it.
How did the amber list rules change on 19 July?
From 19 July, the rules have changed for three groups of people:
- those who are fully vaccinated through the UK vaccination system
- those who are under the age of 18
- those who are taking part in formally approved COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials.
If you fall into one of these three groups and are arriving in England from an amber list country then you may not need to follow the rules in this article. Instead, you should follow the rules in our green list article.
Note that this does not apply if you travelled through a red list country within the 10 days before you arrived in England. In that case you should follow the red list country rules, regardless of whether you have been vaccinated.
In addition, if you are travelling from Metropolitan France (effectively mainland France and the Island of Corsica) or have travelled through there within the 10 days before you arrived in England, then you must follow the amber list rules regardless of your vaccination status.
In order to be considered “fully vaccinated” you must have received your final vaccine dose at least 14 days before you arrive in England. You must also:
- declare that you have been fully vaccinated on your passenger locator form and
- show proof of your vaccination status to your carrier (ferry, airline or train) when you travel.
Government guidance, including how to show proof of your vaccination, can be found here.
How do I know whether the country I visited is on the amber list?
The government has each of the country lists on their website. The amber list is far longer than the other lists, and so we have replicated the red and green lists below. If the country you are travelling from does not appear on either of these lists, then it will be on the amber list.
These lists can change at short notice, so it may be worth double checking the list before making travel plans.
If the country you are travelling from does not appear on the red list, then it may be on the amber list. Also check the green list below.
Currently, the countries on the red list are:
- Cape Verde
- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Costa Rica
- Cuba (from 19 July)
- Dominican Republic
- French Guiana
- Indonesia (from 19 July)
- Myanmar (from 19 July)
- Sierra Leone (from 19 July)
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Arab Emirates (UAE)
If the country you are travelling from does not appear on the green list, then it may be on the amber list. Also check the red list above.
Currently, the countries on the green list are:
- Antarctica/British Antarctic Territory
- Antigua and Barbuda
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- Bulgaria (from 19 July)
- Cayman Islands
- Croatia (from 19 July)
- Falkland Islands
- Faroe Islands
- Hong Kong (from 19 July)
- Israel and Jerusalem
- New Zealand
- Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands
- South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
- St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
- Taiwan (from 19 July)
- Turks and Caicos Islands
What should I do if I am returning from a country on the Amber List?
As stated above, if you have been fully vaccinated under the UK vaccination programme (and received your final dose at least 14 days before you arrive in England) then you do not have to follow the below rules. Instead, you should essentially follow the green list rules, which can be found here. This is not the case if you have stayed in or passed through a red list country in the 10 days before you arrive in England. In those circumstance, you should follow the Red list rules, which can be found here.
Otherwise, you must:
- take a coronavirus test and ensure you receive a negative result within 3 days of your flight home
- book a “travel test package” for a day 2 test and a day 8 test
- complete a passenger locator form.
If you don’t comply with any of these requirements, and you don’t have a reasonable excuse, then you will commit a criminal offence. There are different penalties for each of these offences. See below for more information.
Taking a coronavirus test before you travel
You must take a coronavirus test, and receive a negative result, in the three days before your flight.
The test must be through a private provider (you cannot use an NHS test) and must be certified as accurate. The regulations about which tests are compliant can be found here, and the government guidance for finding a test can be found here. If you receive a positive result, you cannot travel.
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:
- the name of the person from whom the sample was taken
- that person’s date of birth or age
- the negative result of the test
- the date the test sample was collected or received by the test provider
- the name of the test provider and information sufficient to contact that provider
- a statement that the test was a PCR test OR 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 required to take a test as soon as reasonably practicable and/or fined.
Travel operators are under an equivalent duty to make sure that people boarding their services to England possess a negative test result meeting the above requirements (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.
Booking a travel test package
Prior to travelling, you must book a travel test package for yourself and any child with whom you are travelling. You can find a test provider here.
This package includes the two coronavirus tests that you will need to take during your 10-day quarantine at home.
For amber list countries, you must take a first test on or before day 2 following your return, and a second test on or after day 8 following your return (the day you return 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.
If you have arrived from an amber list country, 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.
Completing a passenger locator form
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
- if you intend to take an optional test as part of the “Test to Release” scheme, the details of this test.
A full explanation of the information can be found in Schedule 6 of the regulations.
You can fill out form 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.
What do I have to do when I enter the UK?
Once you are in the UK, you must travel directly to the place where you intend to quarantine. Generally, 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). Therefore, if you arrive in England on one day and travel directly to your quarantine, you must remain there, but it will not count towards your ten 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.
Additionally, you do not have to self-isolate from anyone who visits you in order to:
- provide emergency assistance, urgent medical assistance or other kinds of care or assistance, including personal care
- 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 medical care, including medical care for your mental health
- going to the vet
- 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
- 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 says 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.
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 travelled through or spent time in a red list country within the 10 days before you arrived in England.
Can the police enter my home when I return?
If police or immigration officers have reasonable grounds to suspect that you have come from a red list country and:
- have failed to fill in a passenger locator form, or
- have knowingly or carelessly provided false or misleading information on your passenger locator form,
they have a broader range of enforcement powers that they can use, including detaining you at the airport for up to 3 hours and searching your bags and belongings. See our red list article for more information.
The police can only enter your home if they suspect that you have returned from a red list country, but have not followed the hotel quarantine rules and have gone home instead. In this case, the police can enter your home to remove you to a hotel. If they enter under this power, the officer must identify themselves and state the purpose of their entry if asked.
It is important to note that the regulations do not provide police with the power to enter your property other than this specific circumstance. They may be able to enter for other unrelated reasons, such as if they have a search warrant or in cases of emergency where someone’s life is at risk.
If you commit any of the criminal offences listed above, 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, 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 and Day 8 tests, 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 did not purchase one as soon as you practically could for a child when you entered the UK
If you fail to take your tests 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, 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.
If you fail to self-isolate 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 self-isolation rules (for example, directing someone back to their quarantine hotel), or fail to comply with a direction from an officer relating to these, the fine is:
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.
Doesn’t this breach my human rights?
Your human rights are enshrined 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 from 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 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).
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.
These rules are brand new, so we are monitoring the situation closely. 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
Did you find this content useful?
Help us make our content even better by letting us know whether you found this page useful or not