The United Kingdom has confirmed that it will implement its “traffic light” ranking system for resuming international travel and will lift current restrictions on 12 “green list countries, including Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Portugal and Singapore. The changes will take effect May 17.

Key Points:

  • Currently, travel outside the Common Travel Area is only permitted in cases where individuals have a reasonable excuse to leave the U.K., such as essential work or business reasons where it is not reasonably possible to complete that work within the U.K.
  • At 4:00 a.m. May 17, officials will lift the “Stay in the UK” regulation for those traveling to England from the following “green list” countries/territories:
    • Australia.
    • Brunei.
    • Falkland Islands.
    • Faroe Islands.
    • Gibraltar.
    • Iceland.
    • Israel and Jerusalem.
    • New Zealand.
    • Portugal (including the Azores and Madeira).
    • Singapore.
    • South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands.
    • St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.
  • Individuals returning to England from “green list” countries still must take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours before departing and a PCR test on or before their second day in England. This can be booked in the same way as now though private test providers. They will not need to quarantine unless they receive a positive test result.
  • Leisure and non-essential business travel to and from “amber” and “red” countries will still be barred. A mandatory 10-day hotel quarantine will remain in place for those permitted to enter England from “red” countries. Mandatory home quarantine and strict testing requirements will remain in place for those entering England from “amber” countries.
  • The Maldives, Nepal and Turkey will be added to the “red list” at 4:00 a.m. on May 17, meaning a hotel quarantine will be required. Travel will only be permitted for British, Irish nationals and those holding residence status in the U.K. (for instance, a Skilled Worker permit). The full list of “red” countries is available here.
  • U.K. officials plan to introduce a “green watchlist” of countries that are at risk of moving from “green” to “amber.” This will give passengers more predictability about which protocol they will be subject to upon returning.
  • The “traffic light” lists will be reviewed and updated every three weeks.
  • Travelers are reminded that many countries, including some on the U.K.’s “green list,” have restrictions on travel from the U.K., including entry restrictions and testing and quarantine requirements. It is the travelers’ responsibility to be aware of such policies and travelers are advised to review the .gov website as a source of information on COVID-19 restrictions and entry requirements for overseas locations from the U.K.
  • Some countries may implement eased restrictions for travelers who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Fully vaccinated individuals in England will be able to demonstrate their vaccination status via the NHS app from May 17.
  • Officials have warned travelers to expect additional checks and longer queues at the border upon arrival in the U.K.

Analysis & Comments: The implementation of the “traffic light” system is welcome news that will ease travel procedures for travelers to and from 12 countries/territories. Travelers should treat the news with caution, however, as the countries on the “green list” are subject to change and may have their own restrictions for outbound travelers from the U.K.

Leisure and non-essential business travel still remains suspended for travel to most countries, and even those traveling to and from “green list” countries will need to follow testing protocol before departing and following arrival in England. Travelers are also reminded that different rules apply for inbound travel to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which have yet to update their guidance on any changes from May 17.

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop, and Deloitte will provide additional updates as information 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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