October 13, 2021

What are the updated international travel entry requirements for the UK?

As the post-pandemic world begins to open up to travellers, many countries are re-evaluating their entry requirements for visitors and returning residents. Earlier this month, for example, the United Kingdom replaced its traffic light system with a new policy that simplifies entry for fully vaccinated travellers.

If you’re travelling to the UK soon, make sure you’re up-to-date on the latest requirements for entry. Below, we’ll cover what you should know about the updated policies, including guidelines for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers.


Red list replaces traffic light system

In early October, the UK revoked its traffic light system, which divided countries into three groups: green, amber, and red. Passengers arriving from green countries presented the lowest risk of bringing COVID-19 into the UK, while travellers coming from red countries posed a much higher threat.

Now, the UK government has simplified the system by creating a single red list of banned countries. People cannot enter the UK if they’ve travelled to one of these countries in the previous 10 days (unless they’re a UK national or resident or an Irish national). The emergence of Omicron has resulted in Southern African countries being added to the “red list”: Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Angola, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.


Pre-departure test scrapped for fully vaccinated passengers

For non-red list countries, fully vaccinated travellers may enter the UK without taking a pre-departure COVID-19 test — an update from the previous requirements. Children under 18 are exempt from pre-departure tests as well, whether or not they’re vaccinated.

It’s important to note that each passenger must have received an approved vaccine and present an approved proof of vaccination. Also, vaccination must have occurred at least 14 days before entering the UK.

For those visiting the UK from Australia, a government-issued vaccine certificate is considered appropriate proof of vaccination. All three vaccines currently available in Australia (AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna) are approved.

People who aren’t fully vaccinated will still need to submit a pre-departure COVID-19 test. They’ll also have to self-isolate for 10 days after their arrival and complete PCR tests on days two and eight.


Testing requirements after arriving in the UK

In early January 2022, the UK updated the regulations around testing requirements post-arrival. Previously, all visitors – vaccinated or not – were required to complete a day-two PCR test after arriving. Now, visitors can choose to take a lateral flow test instead. Regardless of the test, this needs to be booked prior to travel (purchased from a private test provider), and a Passenger Locator Form must be completed.

As previously mentioned, unvaccinated passengers will also need to take a test on or after day eight in their self-isolation period.

In light of the Omicron variant, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has emphasised that travellers won’t be stopped from entering the country, but testing and self-isolation until results are required. While face masks were mandated once again, the prime minister has announced that face coverings in public places will no longer be required from 27 January.


Ensuring that you meet these criteria before you travel

In the age of COVID-19, international travel rules and restrictions are constantly changing. The UK government has indicated that countries may be added or removed to the red list, depending on the situation in those areas.

To add to the complexity, the individual countries that make up the UK (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) may have different requirements for returning travellers.

Before you plan a trip to the UK, it’s a good idea to speak with an experienced travel consultant who understands the current rules and requirements. At Airfare Geeks, our knowledgeable team can guide you through the entire process, including booking flights, scheduling COVID-19 testing, and filing the appropriate documents for entry into the UK.


To learn more, visit the Airfare Geeks website or call us on (02) 9188 7823.

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