News & Insights

Entering the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic

Lateral flow test accepted for travel from 24 October 2021

New rules to provide a simpler system for international travel came into force on 4 October 2021. The traffic light system is replaced by a new system forming a ‘red list’ and ‘rest of the world list’. There are different rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers arriving from the rest of the world countries. Currently no countries remain on the red list.

Lateral flow test from 24 October

From 24 October fully vaccinated passengers and most under 18s arriving in England can take a cheaper lateral flow test, instead of a PCR test, on or before day 2 of their arrival in the UK. These can be booked from 22 October. The lateral flow test must be booked through the private providers listed on and passengers must upload a photo of their test to verify the result as soon as possible. The NHS Test and Trace tests cannot be used for international travel. Anyone who tests positive will have access to a free confirmatory NHS PCR test.

Who is fully vaccinated?

Fully vaccinated are travellers who have completed course at least 14 days before arriving in England. The approved vaccines include Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen. 2 different types of vaccine can be mixed.

The Home Office has published a list of countries/territories with approved programmes.

The proof of vaccination can be shown through:

The vaccine certificate must be issued by a national or state-level public health authority, be in English, French or Spanish, and include at least:

  • forename and surname(s)
  • date of birth
  • vaccine brand and manufacturer
  • date of vaccination for every dose
  • country or territory of vaccination and/or certificate issuer

Fully vaccinated travellers are required to:

  • book and pay for a day 2 COVID-19 test – to be taken after arrival in England
  • complete a passenger locator form – any time in the 48 hours before arrival in England
  • take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 after arrival in England

No pre-departure test or day 8 test is required to be taken by fully vaccinated travellers anymore. Additionally, they do not have to quarantine at home or the place they are staying for 10 days after arrival in England.

If the traveller cannot provide proof of being fully vaccinated (as above) the rules for unvaccinated travellers must be followed.

Not fully vaccinated travellers

Before travelling to England:

  • take a pre-departure COVID-19 test – to be taken in the 3 days before arrival in England
    • book and pay for day 2 and day 8 COVID-19 tests – to be taken after arrival in England
    • complete a passenger locator form – any time in the 48 hours before arrival in England

After arrival in England:

  • quarantine at home or another place for 10 days
    • take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8

‘Test to Release Scheme’

Travellers can shorten the quarantine period through the ‘Test to Release’ scheme by paying for a COVID-19 test after isolating for 5 days.

The 2 COVID-19 tests that have been booked before travelling must still be taken. If the test is negative the requirement to quarantine ends immediately. If the test is positive another 10 days of quarantine are necessary starting with the day of the positive test or from the day first systems occurred if that is earlier.

Travellers can access the scheme with an eligible private provider. They must individuate that ‘Test to Release’ will be used on the passenger locator form.

Travellers may be fined up to £10,000 if they do not self-isolate when they need to.

Passenger Locator Form

Travellers must provide their journey and contact details by completing the Passenger Locator Form in the 48 hours before arriving in the UK.

The completed form must be presented at the UK border on arrival, either by printing a copy, or showing it on a mobile phone.

The government will use this information to contact the traveller if a person they were travelling with develops coronavirus symptoms. The information may also be used to check that the traveller is either self-isolating in the place they are staying or quarantining in a hotel.

Each traveller must complete a separate form.

If travelling with someone under 18 years old, they can be included on the same form if they are staying at the same UK address. If entering Scotland, they must be under 16.

Who does not need to complete the form?

Travellers from one of the following places, provided they were there for 10 days or more:

  • Ireland
  • the Channel Islands
  • the Isle of Man

Travellers who have a job on the exempt jobs list also do not need to complete the form.

To complete the form, travellers will need:

  • passport details
  • travel details, including times and dates
  • the UK address where they will be staying (if applicable)
  • the booking reference number and name of the test provider, if using Test to Release to find out if they can end self-isolation early
  • booking reference numbers for the COVID-19 test(s) they must take after arriving in the UK
  • booking reference number confirming their quarantine hotel booking (if applicable)

Travellers will have to declare if they are fully vaccinated and be able to show proof of their vaccination status if they want to make use of the new rules for fully vaccinated under the UK vaccination programme.

If any details change after submitting the passenger locater form a new form must be completed.

FSP can advise you on all aspects of inbound immigration to the UK and will keep you up to date with the latest developments as they are released from the Home Office.

If you require assistance, please contact our Head of Immigration, [email protected].