Update in travel restrictions for students moving to the UK

Travel guidance for students moving to the UK

This article was updated by the Great British Mag editorial team on 16 January 2021.

If you are moving to the UK to start a university course in 2021 this article will help you navigate the Covid-19 restrictions.

When will UK universities resume face-to-face teaching in 2021?

To contain the spread of COVID-19, the UK Government has announced a national lockdown from 5 January 2021. It will last until at least the middle of February, and the government is set to update this guidance by 15 February.

New and returning students are being asked to stay where they are and not return to university yet. That is with the exception of some students that are studying a subject that requires practical, face-to-face sessions, such as:

  • Medicine and dentistry
  • Subjects related to medicine and/or health
  • Veterinary science
  • Education 
  • Social work
  • Courses which involve assessments by the Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) and/or critical work in January which cannot be postponed. Your university will let you know if this applies to you.

What are the travel restrictions?

From 4am on 18 January, if you intend to travel to EnglandScotland, or Wales, including UK nationals returning home from travel abroad, you must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result taken up to 3 days before departure. If you do not comply (and you do not have a valid exemption) your airline or carrier may refuse you boarding and/or you may be fined on arrival. All other current entry requirements and restrictions continue to apply.

Furthermore, all travel corridors will be suspended from 4am on 18 January, and anyone arriving after this date will need to self-isolate for 10 days.

What preparations should I make before leaving my home country?

You should do the following things:

Will I need to get a Covid-19 test before I arrive in the UK?

Yes, this is a legal requirement. and you will need to get a specific type of test called a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to prove you do not have COVID-19. You must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result taken up to 3 days before departure. If you do not comply (and you do not have a valid exemption) your airline or carrier may refuse you boarding and/or you may be fined on arrival. All other current entry requirements and restrictions continue to apply.

Will I have to self-isolate on my arrival?

Yes you will need to self-isolate if you travel to the UK after 4am on 18 January for 10 days, although you might be able to reduce this to five days under the test to release scheme.

How should I travel from the airport to my accommodation?

When you arrive in the UK, you must travel directly to the place you are staying, ideally by private transport. If this is not possible you can use public transport but must observe all travel guidelines, such as wearing a mask, maintaining a 2-metre distance from other commuters, washing and sanitising hands often.

What should I do if I develop symptoms of Covid-19 after arriving in the UK?

If you develop symptoms after arriving in the UK get tested as soon as possible. You might be able to get a test posted to you, through your university or by visiting a test centre free of charge.

If the test is positive you will need to self-isolate for 10 days and follow the instructions provided to you by your airline and inform your university. You may also be contacted by the National Health Service (NHS) who will want to know who you have been in contact with.

You may also want to read

Which Covid-19 tests do airlines accept

How to self-isolate correctly when arriving in the UK

What do the different Covid-19 Tiers mean?