This is an updated version of a news item originally published on 21 April 2021
The UK’s red list of travel ban countries has expanded, with India now being added to the list at 4am BST on Friday 23 April 2021.
The red list of travel ban countries exists to try and prevent the spread of variants. It is in place to minimise travel to the UK and ensure that those that do travel, do so according to the guidance.
If you are a student planning to travel to the UK you might have some questions on whether you can still travel and what you need to think about before you do travel. You can always seek advice from your institution or call our UKCISA advice line for students, but the following might also help to answer your questions.
Where can I find the list of red list ban countries?
You can check the red list countries here. The ‘red list’ applies to all 4 countries of the UK. Despite the word ‘ban’ being used, travel is still permitted for a number of people. However, there are stricter instructions on what you need to do when you arrive in the UK.
I am currently in a red list country, or I will be in a red list country in the 10 days prior to my planned travel to the UK. Am I allowed to travel to the UK?
The guidance on red list countries for England states that if you have been in one of the listed countries in the 10 days prior to travelling, you can still enter the UK if you are a British, Irish or “third-country national with residency rights”. That webpage doesn’t clarify what ‘residency rights’ are. However, there is further guidance on what residency rights are elsewhere. For example, this page provides details for people travelling from India and lists people with residency rights to include:
“holders of Indefinite Leave to Remain; holders of existing leave to enter or remain (i.e those with biometric Residence permits) or an entry clearance/visa that grants such leave e.g. students, workers, etc (excluding visit visas); holders of EU Settlement Scheme (“EUSS”) leave; those who have rights of entry under the Withdrawal Agreements (including returning residents with a right of residence under the EEA Regulations and EEA frontier workers); family members of EEA nationals with rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.”
The Department for Education (DfE) has released other guidance for institutions and students studying in England called “Students returning to, and starting, higher education during spring and summer 2021”. This guidance also states that,
"residence rights includes those with an entry clearance or visa that grants such leave, for example, students, holders of existing leave to enter or remain such as those students with biometric residence permits, and holders of EU Settlement Scheme (‘EUSS’) leave."
This guidance is just written regarding arrivals to England, but we advise students travelling to any country in the UK from a red list country (or who have been in a red list country in the 10 days prior to travel) to carry a copy of the guidance that details this point on residency rights. This means that if you are questioned at any point on your journey, you can point to how you fall within the examples of who has residency rights in the UK. Guidance can also change so we recommend checking before you travel.
Those travelling from a red list country (or who have been in a red list country in the 10 days prior to travel) who are not a British or Irish national, or a third country national with residency rights, will not be permitted to enter England. However, guidance for Scotland and Northern Ireland does not appear to impose such a ban. If you are arriving in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland and travelling onto Wales then you must follow the relevant guidance above for your entry point into the UK.
Applications for visas for study or work in the UK continue to be processed from all locations. Seek assurances from your local UK visa post if you are yet to apply for immigration permission and your application is for a different purpose. We were informed that Priority and Super Priority visa services for all visa routes were suspended. It is not clear if this suspension has yet been lifted.
An update to guidance on 5 May 2021 provided that if you are in a red list country and wish to apply for a visitor in transit or direct airside transit visa (DATV) UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) are now able to process the application, as the pause on issuing transit visas prior to this date has been lifted.
The guidance also states that decisions on pending applications to the UK under the visit route may be delayed if you’re applying from a country where travel to the UK is suspended. The guidance says that you’ll receive your visit visa when suspension of travel is lifted if your application is successful.
I am travelling from a red list country, or I am arriving having been in a red list country in the 10 days prior to travelling. Do I need to quarantine when I arrive?
Yes, in almost all cases you must quarantine. Your obligations may differ depending on what country you are travelling into:
- If you are arriving in England, you must quarantine in a government approved hotel for 10 days. There is further information here on costs and what you need to do before you travel. There are also further details about your arrival, stay and testing obligations while you are in hotel quarantine. A very small number of people arriving in England who have visited or passed through a red list country will not need to quarantine in a government approved hotel but this is limited to those on a specific list of job exemptions and those exempt on the basis of medical or compassionate reasons. See the gov.uk information to check if this applies to you.
- If you are arriving in Scotland, you must enter ‘managed isolation’ and quarantine in an approved hotel for 10 days. The information here provides further information on costs, what you need to do before you travel and provides further details on your stay, including testing obligations while you are in quarantine. The gov.scot information also provides instructions if you are studying in Scotland but travelling into other countries of the UK. There are a small number of people arriving in Scotland who will not be required to quarantine in a hotel. Please see this gov.scot information for further details.
- Since the 15 February it has not been possible to travel directly to Wales from a red list country. Instead you must travel to England or Scotland, following their rules on managed quarantine. Once you have completed your 10 days of managed quarantine you can then travel on to Wales. You can find further information on the gov.wales guidance.
- If you are arriving in Northern Ireland having been in or passed through a red list country you must also enter ‘managed isolation’ and quarantine for 10 days. Similarly to England and Scotland, there are certain listed job exemptions listed on nidrect.gov who are not required to enter managed hotel isolation.
Can I choose and book my own hotel?
Unfortunately not. You must book a ‘managed quarantine package’ before you travel via quarantinehotelbookings.ctmportal.co.uk. All bookings are done in this way regardless of whether you are flying into England, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
I want to come to the UK to apply for the Graduate route. Is this possible?
Many students are currently studying their courses overseas due to Covid-19 and might be eager to come to the UK in order to be able to make an application under the Graduate route. Regardless of whether you are travelling from a red list country (or are travelling having been in a red list country in the 10 days prior to travelling), we strongly recommend you read our information on the Graduate route to understand whether you will be eligible to apply under the route, and to understand whether you need to be in the UK by a certain date in order to apply under the Graduate route. It is also very important you contact your institution to seek advice from them on whether you will be eligible to apply under the Graduate route.
This information is specific to those travelling from red list countries, or those who will have been in a red list county in the 10 days prior to travel. We advise all students to contact their institution prior to making plans for travelling so you can get further specific advice and support from your institution. Please also see our information page on Covid-19 as this includes further information for international students generally, including pre-travel Covid-19 testing and self-isolation on arrival in the UK.