Where are we at with the latest UK immigration “traffic light” system?

In this article, we look at the “traffic light” rules which were introduced for people seeking to enter England from abroad. This system is underpinned by the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel and Operator Liability) (England) Regulations 2021/582.

In most cases, anyone wanting to enter England must take a COVID-19 test before travelling to the UK, book and pay for a COVID test(s), and complete a passenger locator form.

Whether further actions are required after arriving, is dependent on whether a person is coming from a:

The rules apply even if a person is fully vaccinated. However, the rules don’t apply if travelling within the Common Travel Area (the “CTA”, comprising of the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man), and you have not been outside the CTA in the last 10 days. In addition, there are job and medical exemptions.

Red list countries and territories

There are currently over 40 countries and territories on this list including: India, South Africa, and Turkey.

If a person has been in a red list country or territory in the last 10 days, they will be refused entry to England, unless they are a British or Irish national, or have residence rights (for example, not coming as a visitor and has an appropriate and valid UK visa).

If eligible to enter England, it is necessary to quarantine for 10 full days in a managed hotel, and take 2 COVID-19 tests.

Amber list countries and territories

The majority of countries and territories are on this list including:  Hong Kong, USA, and most EU countries.

If a person has been in an amber list country or territory in the last 10 days, they will need to quarantine at home or in the place they are staying at (such as a hotel) for 10 days, and take 2 COVID-19 tests.

It may be possible to come out of quarantine early by paying for a private COVID-19 test through the “Test to Release” scheme.

Green list countries and territories

There are currently just 12 countries and territories on this list including: Australia, New Zealand, and Portugal.

If a person has been in a green list country or territory in the last 10 days, they must take a COVID-19 test by the second day of arrival in England. No quarantine is necessary, unless the test result is positive.

What about transit stops?

In most cases, if a person has been in or passed through a “red list” and/or “amber list” country or territory, including transit stops, in the previous 10 days, then the highest “list” rules would apply.


It will be necessary to ensure that the relevant steps are taken prior to travelling to the UK, and in some cases it might not be possible to come to the UK.


Other than looking at the current “traffic light” system, changes and immigration related news/cases you might want to take a note of include:

  • the guidance on temporary adjusted right to work checks have been amended (again!) and did NOT end on 16 May 2021, but instead will now end on 20 June 2021 – full checks will therefore resume from 21 June 2021
  • new right to work guidance is to be expected to be published imminently to cover what to do with EEA national documents
  • there are just over 30 days until the EU Settlement Scheme deadline of 30 June 2021 – EU nationals who were resident in the UK before the end of December 2020 would be well advised to submit an application in good time. Employers who have recruited these staff should encourage them to apply! Continued employment of these individuals after this date will be unlawful (unless exceptions apply and/or the government extend the deadline)
  • the New plan for immigration: legal migration and border control strategy statement was published on 24 May 2021
  • from 27 September 2021, face-to-face learning must recommence for international students

First published: 26 May 2021

Further information

If you have any questions and/or would like tailored advice on any UK immigration matter, please speak to Vincent Chung at: hello@dixcartuk.com or to your usual Dixcart contact.

The data contained within this document is for general information only. No responsibility can be accepted for inaccuracies. Readers are also advised that the law and practice may change from time to time. This document is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute accounting, legal or tax advice. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.