Skip to main content
Global HR Lawyers

Traffic light system comes into effect for travel to England

19 May 2021

On 17 May 2021 a set of traffic light ratings was put in place for determining pre-and post-arrival COVID-19 measures for travelling to England.

This policy ends the ‘stay at home’ rule, under which travel from England was prohibited without a reasonable excuse, and opens up the possibility of entry to the UK without a quarantine period being required.

General issues that intending travellers need to be aware of

The COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements for entering England are outlined below, however travellers should also check the requirements in place in the country they intend to travel to. Although quarantine is not required when arriving in England from green list countries, those countries may still have quarantine or other pre-or post-entry requirements that may affect the feasibility of a short holiday or business trip.

The countries included on each list may change with little or no notice, which means that travellers should be prepared either to return early, or to comply with more stringent requirements if the country they intend to enter England from is moved from one list to another.

The Department for Transport has issued a Passenger COVID-19 Charter highlighting key points travellers should bear in mind. Travellers should ensure they carefully monitor and comply with documentation and procedural requirements for travelling (both pre- and post-arrival) and be prepared for delays at travel terminals while compliance is checked. They should also ensure they understand their booking terms, as well as the terms of any travel insurance policy they have in place or are considering taking out.

Common Travel Area

There are no COVID-19 testing or isolation requirements for people arriving in England from elsewhere in the UK, or from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, provided they have not been outside these places within the 10 days before arrival.

Occupational and medical exemptions

There are certain occupation and medical/compassionate grounds exemptions from COVID-19 testing and/or quarantine requirements. These exist outside of the traffic light system.

Green list countries

Before arrival, travellers who have only been in or travelled through green list countries within the 10 days before arrival in England must:

  • Book and pay for a day 2 approved COVID-19 test

After arrival, these travellers must:

  • Take the booked COVID-19 test on or before day 2 after arrival

Self-isolation is not required unless the test is positive, or NHS Test and Trace directs this because the person travelled to England with another person who tests positive.

The Government has committed to reviewing the green list every three weeks.

Amber list countries

Although the official guidance states not to travel to amber list countries, doing so is not unlawful.

In addition to the pre-arrival requirements for those arriving in England from green list countries, a day 8 approved COVID-19 test must be booked and paid for when arriving from an amber list country.

After arrival, passengers from amber list countries must also:

  • Self-quarantine in their home or the place they are staying in England for 10 days
  • Take the booked COVID-19 tests on or before day 2, and on or after day 8 (unless they are able to end their quarantine early under the Test to Release scheme)

Red list countries

Travel to red list countries is also against government guidance, and there will be practical obstacles to returning to England from these countries as direct arrivals (subject to limited exceptions) are currently unlawful.

Only British or Irish nationals, and who have residence rights in the UK are permitted to enter England within 10 days of presence in a red list country.

Those who arrive in England within 10 days of having been in a red list country must do the following before arrival:

  • Book and pay for a quarantine hotel package, including a day 2 and day 8 approved COVID-19 test

After arrival, these travellers must:

  • Quarantine in an approved hotel for at least 10 days (the period will be extended in the case of receiving a positive COVID-19 test result)
  • Take the booked COVID-19 test on or before day 2 after arrival, and on or after day 8 (noting that the Test to Release scheme does not apply)

If you have any queries about the current requirements, please contact a member of our Immigration Team.


Related items

Related services

Covid 19 - Coronavirus

Our advice on dealing with the impact of coronavirus.

Back To Top