What do the UK travel restrictions mean for international students?

What do the UK Covid-19 travel updates mean for international students? October Update

This article was updated by the Great British Mag content team on 06 January 2022.

If you are confused about what you have to do to enter the UK fear not, here we will tell you everything you need to know about the new travel updates and how they affect you as an international student.

GB Mag Survival Service creative - 2021

Important note: Omicron Variant update

Due to the new omicron variant found in the UK, the nations are changing some of the Covid regulations. If you are confused about what to do now, we have broken it down for you.

The biggest changes that have taken place mainly affect travel restrictions. The red list of countries has been updated and will continue to be updated so make sure that you check it before travelling to the UK. If you are coming from any country that is red-listed you will have to quarantine in a hotel.

Some rules are also coming back into place. ANYONE travelling to the UK must take a day two covid test (lateral flow tests may be valid if they comply with regulations. These are available on the government website) bought from a private company. NHS tests will NOT be valid.

You must self-isolate until the day two PCR test result comes back. If it comes back positive you must continue to self-isolate for 7-10 days, depending on whether you receive a negative or positive result on a lateral flow test taken 24 hours apart on day 6 and day 7 of your isolation. If you test negative on day 7, then you are released from your self-isolation. If you test positive on day 7, then you will have to isolate for the full 10 days. If there is a delay in providing your results, you will have to self-isolate until one of these happens:

a) You receive your test result
b) 14 days have passed since your arrival

Moreover, if you are suspected of being in close contact with someone that has tested positive for the omicron variant you might be contacted to self-isolate for 7-10 days, dependent on whether you receive a negative result on a lateral flow test taken 24 hours apart on day 6 and day 7 of your isolation, which will release you from your self-isolation period. 

Lastly, facemasks are mandatory in England again. This means that you must wear a facemask whenever you are indoors in a public space such as a shop or a bus anywhere in the UK.

What is the travel guidance?

The UK has decided to scrap the traffic light system that has been in place for the past couple of months and has implemented a new system with fewer restrictions. The new system now works on a basis of red countries vs. rest of the world.

Depending on whether you are coming from a red country or not you will need to do different things. However, everyone must fill in a passenger locator form before they leave for the UK. You will need to create an account and fill in your details. They will ask for an email, a phone number and your passport information as well as the date and time of your arrival and booking confirmations for your Covid-19 tests, your vaccination status and quarantine hotel if you need one. Once you have followed all the steps you will be sent a QR code that you can save in your phone or print. They will ask for this at the airport.

What do I need to do if I am travelling from a red list country?

You can only enter the UK from a red list country if you are a UK national, or have the right to reside in the UK (having a student visa gives you the right to reside in the UK). Regardless of yur vaccination status, when coming to the UK from a red listed country you must:

  • Take a pre-departure test two days before arriving to the UK. You must have a negative result before you board on your transport of choice. The test can be any nucleic acid test—such as a PCR—or a lateral flow test. The test must comply with the regulations stated on the government website.
  • Quarantine in a specialised quarantine hotel for ten days. The day that you arrive in the UK is treated as day zero. You have to book this 14 days prior to your arrival and it will include your stay at the hotel, quarantine transport and Covid-19 tests on day two and day eight of quarantine. The price of hotel quarantine has gone up to £2,285 for one adult in one room.
  • Check with your university before making any travel plans. They will be able to support you upon arrival. Furthermore, if you are having financial trouble then ask your university whether they provide extra funding. Some universities are offering to reimburse the cost of the hotel quarantine as well as offering hardship funds for students.

What do I need to do if I am travelling from anywhere else?

*Fully vaccinated means that you had your second dose of the vaccine 14 days ago. If less than 14 days have passed you are NOT fully vaccinated.

If you are fully vaccinated (14 days after your second dose):

  • You don’t have to take a pre-departure test anymore.
  • Book and pay for a day two PCR test if you are going to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. From the 9th of January, if you are travelling to England you can book an Antigen test instead of a PCR. You have to take the test on or before the second day after your arrival to the UK. You can book it via the government page.
  • Show proof of your vaccination status.
  • You will have to self isolate until you have your day two test result. If its negative you can stop self isolating. If it is positive you must self isolate for 10 days.

Keep in mind that not all vaccines are valid. You need to make sure that the one that you have is valid under the EMA and FDA. These are: Pfizer, Moderna, Astra-Zeneca, Jansen and Corminatry. If you have been vaccinated in the UK, US, EU, New Zealand, Canada or Australia, the vaccine will most likely be valid. Otherwise you might need to get vaccinated again in the UK.

If you are not fully vaccinated:

  • Take a PCR pre-departure test no more than 2 days before you are travelling.
  • Book and pay for a day two and a day eight test PCR. These must be taken on or before day two and day eight. You can book them vie the government website.
  • You must quarantine at home for ten days. You can also opt to pay for a ‘test to release’ test which you will be able to take on day five (only valid in England). You must book this before your arrival to the UK and it will cost between £80 and £120 depending on what company you book it with. You are allowed to stop self-isolating as soon as you receive a negative result from this test.

What is happening with student visas?

With these new restrictions, the government has implemented some concessions for Student visa holders. The goal of this is to provide you with time and flexibility in regards to your return to the UK. All international students, whether returning or starting their first academic year in 2021-2022, will be allowed to do online learning from home. However, you must have returned to the UK by 6 April 2022.

To be able to keep your visa, though, you must meet two conditions. If you are studying from home you cannot miss more than 30 days of class, otherwise your visa will be withdrawn.

For international students who are in the UK, from 27 September onwards you must undertake face-to-face learning at least two times per month.

You may also want to read

What are the UK Covid rule changes?

Moving to the UK: your ultimate checklist

Will international students get the Covid-19 vaccination for free?