Changes to international Covid-19 travel rules for England

Published on: 27/09/2021


Under England’s current traffic light system, there are different rules for entering England dependant on the country an individual is travelling from. The UK government has categorised countries into red list, amber list, or green list countries based on the prevalence of confirmed Covid-19 cases in each country.  

Red list countries  

Only British nationals, Irish nationals, and those individuals with established residence rights in the UK are permitted to enter England from a red list country. Residence rights include but are not limited to individuals with indefinite leave to remain (ILR), those with existing leave to enter/remain or a visa granting such leave (e.g., students, workers, etc.), those with leave granted under the EU Settlement Scheme, etc.  

When entering England from a red list country, individuals (regardless of their nationality) must undergo 10 days of government-managed hotel quarantine (at a hefty cost of £2,285 for one adult), in addition to paying for and taking Covid-19 tests before their departure, and on day 2 and day 8 of their quarantine in England.  

The UK government has announced that from 4am on Monday 4th October 2021, the rules for international travel to England will change from the red, amber, and green traffic light system to a simplified single red list of countries, with travel from countries outside of the red list being determined by the traveller’s vaccination status. The amber and green list countries will be scrapped, and the rules for entering England from a red list country will remain the same.  

Fully vaccinated individuals – Entry from non-red list countries 

As of 4am on 4 October 2021, individuals who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 (at least 14 days prior to arriving in England), entering from a country not on the red list no longer need to: 

  • Take a pre-departure Covid-19 test 
  • Take a day 8 Covid-19 test 
  • Quarantine for 10 days in their home/accommodation after arriving in England 

These fully vaccinated individuals are still required to: 

  • Prior to arriving in England, book and pay for a day 2 Covid-19 test to be taken after arrival in England 
  • Complete a passenger locator form online in the 48 hours prior to arriving in England 
  • Take a day 2 Covid-19 test after arriving in England  

The UK government only accepts Covid-19 vaccination evidence from an approved vaccination programme in the UK, Europe, the US, a UK vaccination programme overseas, with the vaccine being a full course of the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, or Janssen Covid-19 vaccines. Travellers must evidence (digitally or in paper) full vaccination (completed at least 14 days prior to their arrival date in England) with a document issued by a national/state-level public health body stating their full name, date of birth, vaccine brand and manufacturer, date of each dose, and country of vaccination. If an individual has been vaccinated in the US, he/she must also evidence residency in the US.  

If the vaccination document does not meet all these requirements, travellers will be seen as non-vaccinated and will be forced to enter England in accordance with the non-vaccinated rules i.e. will be required to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test, take day 2 and day 8 Covid-19 tests, and quarantine for 10 days in their home/accommodation after arriving in England. 

The UK Government, specifically the Home Office, has faced criticism of their implementation of the traffic light system, as it has caused confusion and has increased wait times when arriving at England’s airports, with travellers spending hours in long queues in confined spaces, thereby increasing the risk of the transmission of Covid-19. It is almost certain that there will be future changes to the international travel rules for England, and we advise always checking with the government website before making any travel plans.  


This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking professional and legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.