Is a Health Form Necessary to Enter the United Kingdom?
During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, all international travel practically came to a standstill as different countries introduced various measures to combat the spread of the virus. Measures taken included the necessity to complete a coronavirus test days before travel and mandatory quarantine on arrival in the destination country. The European Union went as far as to bring in a vaccine passport which could be regularly updated with the holder’s vaccination status. In more extreme cases, some countries even went as far as banning virtually all incoming and outgoing air traffic.
During those dark days, visitors to the United Kingdom were required to have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and show proof of having taken a recent negative test before being allowed to enter the UK. Thankfully the worst now seems to have passed, although recent rises in case numbers cause some concern, and international travel is almost back to pre-pandemic normality.
Back to Normal
The good news is that taking a plane or boat to the United Kingdom is once more a simple process without all the coronavirus requirements. At least for the present. This means that visitors merely require a current passport with a validity of at least three months beyond the last date of stay. Of course, non-European Union citizens or those not on a visa-exempt list will also require a visa to enter the UK.
This means it is no longer necessary:
- To have undertaken a COVID-19 test before travel or upon arrival
To quarantine upon arrival
- To provide a passenger locator form for the duration of the stay
These new guidelines apply to all visitors, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or not.
Subject to Change
Although there are currently no requirements for COVID-19 testing or proof of vaccination, this is a highly fluid situation, and old regulations can be quickly reinstated.
If countries are added to the ‘red list’ – a list of countries with unusually high COVID-19 cases – it makes travel to and from these countries extremely difficult. There are no countries on the red list at present, but this can change on a dime if COVID cases drastically increase again.
Passenger Locator Form
In 2020, the UK introduced passenger locator forms in order to keep tabs on visitors and returning citizens. Using these forms, the authorities could keep a record of anyone who tested positive for the virus as well as their location and possible contacts. A year later the scheme was updated and included details of the persons’ vaccination status, including booster shots.
Since March of 2022, when all travel restrictions were lifted, completing a locator form is no longer required, and all visitors are free to enter the UK without forms or any proof of vaccination. However, this may be viewed as a temporary measure as the UK health authorities have warned that locator forms may be rolled out again should case numbers increase to a worrying level.
It should be noted that some European countries were still using passenger locator forms until quite recently (and some may still do) so it is advisable to check any country’s COVID-19 policies before travelling.
While some visitors to the United Kingdom will require a visa, this is not currently the situation for Europeans despite Britain having left the European Union. In 2023, the EU is set to roll out the ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) and at this point, British citizens wishing to visit any EU country will require an ETIAS-approved passport. Similarly, the UK is also introducing its own electronic travel approval scheme whereby European visitors will need pre-approval to travel to the United Kingdom.
At present, it is still relatively easy for British citizens to visit Europe and Europeans to enter the UK. The only documentation required is a current, valid passport with at least three months remaining beyond the last date spent in the country. No health forms, proof of vaccination or passenger locator form are currently required, but this should be checked before embarking on any trip to the United Kingdom or Europe.
In certain circumstances, it is also possible to enter the UK by means of a national identity card, but these are unusual cases and few and far between. Also, visitors from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland require no documentation, although border security may ask questions pertaining to the visit, and it is always best to carry a passport to avoid any delays or problems at the border.
COVID-19 Rules May Still Apply
Although many of the COVID-19 travel restrictions and regulations have now been lifted, this does not mean that the pandemic is over or all rules are a thing of the past. Many airlines still operate a compulsory mask-wearing rule while on flight, and some airports also demand that intending passengers wear a mask while in the terminal buildings. Such regulations are expected to remain in place for the foreseeable future and particularly so if coronavirus case numbers start to rise significantly.
Rules and regulations vary from airport to airport and flight operator to flight operator, so intending travellers should make themselves aware of the rules before arriving at an airport or sea terminal.
Quarantine requirements in the UK and in most of Europe are also primarily gone. However, some countries still operate mandatory quarantine for arriving visitors, so one should always be aware of the current situation, of course, what is true today may not be the case tomorrow.