When the United Kingdom officially exited the European Union in January 2020, it gained the right to implement its own immigration policies outside the control of Brussels. Prior to Brexit, the UK shared a common visa policy with the rest of the EU, which meant that the process for traveling between continental Europe and the UK was the same as traveling throughout the EU in terms of visa requirements. Prior to Brexit, visa requirements to travel to the UK from Europe were essentially non-existent for EU citizens and residents who were looking to travel and stay in the UK for certain periods. With Brexit officially over, the rules for entering the UK from Europe have changed. While most EU citizens and residents do not need a visa in order to enter the UK for short periods of time, those looking to live for extended stays and study and/or work at certain jobs may need to seek a visa. However, while Brexit may have fundamentally changed visa requirements and rules for entering the UK, nothing has affected it so much as the current coronavirus crisis, which has resulted in numerous travel restrictions to the UK. Today’s blog will therefore cover the post-Brexit current requirements to travel to the UK during coronavirus (from the EU to the UK). Learn about the EU Digital Covid Certificate (aka the EU vaccine passport) and other travel restrictions and visa requirements for EU citizens abroad and at home.
Post-Brexit requirements to travel to UK from Europe
- Post-Brexit, the UK continues to allow EU, Swiss, and EEA citizens to travel to the UK and stay in the country without a visa.
- EU, Swiss, and EEA can typically enter and remain Britain for half a year. If you wish to stay longer than six months in the UK, you will likely need to apply for a visa. The type of UK visa you should apply for will depend on your reason for staying longer in the country.
- However, even if you are staying less than six months in the UK you may still need a visa, depending on your purpose for travel. For example, while many business travelers do not need a visa to come to the UK, those who are looking to be employed by British companies will need to pursue a visa. For help understanding your UK visa requirements, contact us here.
- The above categories of persons need only a national passport to enter the UK (not a visa). However, as a result of Brexit, EU/EEA/Swiss individuals who pursue EU to UK travel can no longer travel to the UK on their EU/EEA/Swiss country ID card (as of Fall 2021). Once this change goes into effect, they will need a passport to enter the UK.
Travel to UK during coronavirus
- The UK has imposed entry and post-arrival restrictions on EU foreigners (and on all other foreigners and those arriving from abroad) since the pandemic began. These measures have included pre and post flight COVID-19 testing, mandatory self-isolations, quarantines, entry bans and other restrictive measures meant to protect the domestic UK population from the virus.
- Like many states, the UK continues to apply country-specific entry and exit requirements, categorizing the other countries of the world by color in terms of COVID-19 rates.
- Currently the UK classifies foreign countries as either Green, Amber or Red. Countries on the “Green List” are those with low rates of COVID; travelers arriving from Green countries are subject to the fewest and least intense travel restrictions—relative to those arriving from Amber List countries (middle tier, in terms of COVID rates). Those arriving from Red List countries (those with the highest COVID-19 rates globally) are subject to the highest restrictions/entry bans.
- Because the UK is no longer part of the EU, it does not have to have a common travel policy for the whole of the EU (meaning that it can apply different restrictions to different countries). Requirements to travel to the UK from Europe are therefore country specific, so make sure that you determine the specific rules the UK has in place for your country. At the moment, for example, the UK has put France on the Amber List, meaning that arrivals from France are subject to the specific Amber List requirements (which include pre-flight and post-arrival COVID scheduling and testing, and the completion of a digital passenger locator form).
- With European countries making significant headway on fully vaccinating their populations, the UK has taken steps to reduce the requirements to travel to the UK from Europe for vaccinated individuals. For example, at the moment, unvaccinated travelers from France who arrive in the UK must self-isolate for 10 days upon reaching the border, under penalty of being finec. In contrast, fully vaccinated arrivals from France are exempt from the self-isolation requirement. All in all, vaccinated travelers arriving in the UK face fewer travel restrictions than their unvaccinated counterparts—regardless of whether they are coming from the EU or elsewhere.
- Requirements to travel to the UK from Europe for vaccinated travelers include showing proof of vaccination. In addition to providing evidence of your vaccination status, you will also have to demonstrate that you received a UK approved vaccine (for example, the UK does not consider vaccines administered in a non-EU, non-EEA country to be valid). Therefore, if you were vaccinated in Serbia (a European county that is not yet an EU member state, your vaccine will not be considered valid for unrestricted travel to the UK).
- If you are traveling from the EU as an EU national or resident, you will be able to show your vaccination status through the “EU Digital Covid Certificate.” Known unofficially as the EU vaccine passport, the EU DCC is essentially a type of electronic document (although it can also be obtained in paper format) that shows the holder has 1) Received a full COVID-19 vaccination 2) Has currently tested negative for the virus 3) Has previously been infected with the virus. Each EU country has access to the EU DCC, which is available through each country’s respective health authority. If you are an EU citizen or resident, you can obtain your certificate and use it as evidence of having been vaccinated (or having tested negative for COVID) in order to travel to the UK.
- Also keep in mind that many EU countries have the same reduced entry requirements for vaccinated individuals as unvaccinated individuals who show evidence of having previously been infected with COVID (i.e. those who are considered immune from the disease). The UK, however, does not give special status to unvaccinated previously infected individuals, meaning that if you previously had COVID (and have proof of having had it—such as on your EU vaccine passport) you will face the same restrictions as unvaccinated individuals who lack immunity.
- Please note that EU citizens abroad (i.e. those who are EU passport holders but who are currently in a non-EU country) who are attempting to travel to the UK will be subject to the specific entry conditions/restrictions that relate to the country they are arriving from (verses from the country they are citizens of).
- For example, if you are French citizen who is trying to enter the UK from Egypt, you must follow the UK restrictions governing travel for arrivals from Egypt (verses arrivals from France). In this scenario, because Egypt is currently on the UK Red List (and only UK citizens and residents are allowed to enter the UK from a Red List country) you will not be able to travel to the UK from Egypt, even though you are a French citizen and France is on the Amber List.
- The restrictions you face when traveling to the UK are not just dependent on where you are coming from, but also what country you have spent time in prior to arriving in the UK. UK travel restrictions therefore apply equally to the country you are traveling directly from and any country you have spent the previous 10 days in prior to arriving in the UK. For example, if you are traveling from France to the UK on Friday, but you arrived in France on Monday from Austria, you will have to abide by the travel restrictions in place for both France and Austria (because you were in Austria within 10 days of arriving in the UK. Because Austria is on the UK Green List, however (compared to Amber-listed France) you will not face any additional restrictions as a result of having recently traveled there). However, let’s imagine a similar scenario, except this time you have travelled from Austria to the UK on Friday, having arrived in Austria on Monday from Egypt. In this scenario, even though Austria is on the UK Green List, because Egypt is on the Red List, and you were in Egypt within 10 days of arriving in the UK, you would be required to abide by the Red List rules for entry.
- Please note that you must disclose where you have previously traveled within 10 days of arriving in the UK. If you do not, you could face significant penalties, including large financial fines.