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New quarantine rules cause confusion for cross-border workers

10 June 2020

New rules require most international travellers arriving in the UK from 8 June 2020 to self-isolate for 14 days. There is an exemption for cross-border workers, however how this works in practice is not straight-forward.

The cross-border worker exemption is one of many. It applies to people who are either employed or self-employed in the UK and live in another country to which they usually return at least once a week, or are employed or self-employed in another country and live in the UK, usually returning here at least once a week. They are still required to complete a Public Health Passenger Locator Form within 48 hours of their arrival in the UK, but do not need to self-isolate.

However, the first complication is that the exemption does not apply to those whose entry point to the UK is Scotland. This is because there are four different sets of regulations governing the quarantine scheme, and whilst the regulations for England, Wales and Northern Ireland exempt cross-border workers, the regulations for Scotland do not.

In practice, what this means is that for the time-being, cross-border workers who either live or work in Scotland and spend less than 14 days in Scotland on each trip will be required to self-isolate for the entire time they are in Scotland.

Secondly, the information published on GOV.UK for exempt persons is more restrictive than the regulations when it comes to cross-border workers, stating that cross-border workers must provide evidence they travel between the UK and the other country on a minimum of a weekly basis, for example by holding a season ticket.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many cross-border workers have needed to change their travel patterns, so may not be able to show that they currently travel between countries at least weekly. Contrary to what the information on GOV.UK suggests, they will still fall within the exemption if they can show that they usually travel weekly, which for some people may mean providing evidence that they routinely did this before around the beginning of March this year.

In order to figure out whether the exemption applies, it will be necessary to assess the person’s circumstances and put together evidence that shows they are a cross-border worker. That evidence will vary from person to person, but is likely to include documents relating to their accommodation in the UK and abroad, as well as their employment or self-employment and their travel between the UK and the other country where they live or work.

Eligibility will also have to be re-confirmed periodically. This is because the quarantine arrangements are being reviewed on a three-weekly basis (with the next review due by 29 June 2020) and what constitutes the person’s usual pattern of travel may shift over time.

The situation for cross-border workers is only one example of the complexities of the regulations, particularly as regards presence in Scotland. If you need assistance with interpreting the quarantine measures and how they may affect you or your staff, please do get in touch with a member of the Immigration Team.

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