The Home Office has released official guidance confirming that from 4 a.m. on Jan. 18, anyone traveling to England will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test result before departure.

Key Points:

  • The Home Office previously announced that the testing requirement would take effect on Friday, Jan. 15. This has been delayed until Monday, Jan. 18, to allow additional time for travelers to adjust and prepare.
  • Passengers arriving in England before Jan. 18 at 4 a.m. are under no legal obligation to get a test before traveling and should not be denied boarding for failing to provide proof of a negative test result. They will not be fined upon arrival, but the guidance still encourages anyone traveling before Jan. 18 to get a test if possible.
  • Beginning Jan. 18, anyone arriving in England, including U.K. nationals, will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result taken within three days before starting their journey to England. This applies to passengers arriving by ship, plane or train, and must be presented before boarding for travel.
  • The test result must be in English, French or Spanish, and translations will not be accepted. The original test certificate must be presented and may be presented electronically on a mobile device.
  • The guidance also outlines the criteria for acceptable test providers and the type that must be used. Tests must meet certain performance standards, and acceptable tests include PCR tests, LAMP tests or an antigen test.
  • It is permissible to use a test taken in the U.K. ahead of a return journey of less than three days, so long as a private test provider, not NHS Test and Trace, is used.
  • If the test result is positive, travel to England is not permitted. If the result is inconclusive, another test must be taken.
  • Travelers must ensure they have a valid test result to present when boarding at the start of their journey. They should not rely on getting a test in a country through which they are transiting. Passengers who arrive in England who have not complied with the requirement will be subject to fines starting at £500.
  • There are certain exemptions. A test is not required for children under 11 years old. Travelers with a specified medical reason and travelers whose journey began in Ireland,  Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Ascension Island, the Falkland Islands and St. Helena are also exempt. A test will not be required for those arriving from Antigua and Barbuda, St. Lucia or Barbados until Thursday, Jan. 21, at 4 a.m.
  • Travelers in certain jobs are also exempt, including borders and customs officials, hauliers and air, maritime and rail crew. Travelers wishing to claim an exemption are advised to speak to a Deloitte immigration professional before undertaking their journey to ensure they do not inadvertently violate the requirements.
  • Having the negative test result will not negate the existing requirement to isolate for 10 days upon arrival, even for passengers arriving from the U.K.’s travel corridor list. Travelers staying in England can cut their isolation period short by testing negative for COVID-19, at their own expense, five days after arrival. This is referred to as the “Test to Release” scheme.
  • Passengers will continue to be required to complete a passenger locator form and will be subject to current lockdown restrictions while they are in the U.K.
  • The testing requirement will also apply to individuals traveling to Scotland from Friday, Jan. 15, at 4 a.m. The appropriate guidance is on this Scottish government website. The requirement does not yet apply to those traveling to Wales or Northern Ireland but further details are expected to be released soon.

Analysis & Comments: Travel to and from the U.K. remains limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the testing requirement will further add to the time it takes to plan travel. Deloitte will provide additional information as it becomes available. Please check Deloitte’s COVID-19 Digital Map, for information on travel restrictions and immigration changes in the U.K. and other countries.

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