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Traveling to the UK: Do I Need a COVID-19 Test or Passenger Form?
With nearly 40 million tourists visiting in pre-pandemic times, the United Kingdom was one of the most popular destinations in Europe for travel and tourism.
However, that all changed when the coronavirus spread around the world, and governments were forced to shut their borders to prevent the spread. In fact, the United Kingdom was infamous for having one of the strictest entry requirements during the pandemic, but thankfully that has changed.
In March 2022, the government completely overhauled the requirements for visitors and removed a majority of prerequisites needed to enter the country.
Nowadays, some of the most popular questions in regards to traveling to the UK include queries like, Do I need a COVID-19 test to enter England? or Is there a UK visa for Qatar citizens?
If you’re planning to travel to the UK soon, there are the current entry requirements, as well as what travel documents are needed.
United Kingdom COVID-19 Situation
The United Kingdom has gone through multiple waves of the coronavirus and, at one point, had some of the highest infection rates in the world.
Thankfully, the COVID-19 situation has improved dramatically, especially in the past month.
The UK had two of its biggest waves this year: the first of which saw an all-time high of 275,600 new cases in the beginning of January. The second biggest wave reached its peak on March 21st, with nearly 110,000 infections in one day.
The biggest number of cases come from England, followed by Scotland, Northern Ireland, and finally, Wales.
According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, the number of infections has started to fall. Since the beginning of April, the number of new infections has dropped down between 20 to 35 thousand new cases per day.
On a similar note, nearly 80 percent of the UK population has had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 74 percent are fully vaccinated. Out of those, more than half have received their booster dose.
Current Entry Requirements for the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom had one of the most restrictive entry policies during the height of the pandemic — visitors needed to provide a negative COVID-19 test, book and pay for another test after arrival, and complete a passenger locator form (PLF). Those who came from so-called ‘red countries’ also faced the possibility of having to quarantine for up to two weeks after arrival.
However, the majority of entry requirements for the UK have been removed since March 18, 2022.
This means that all travelers who wish to enter the United Kingdom after this date will no longer need a negative COVID-19 test, nor will they need to fill out a passenger locator form. The new rules concern both vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers.
This step is just one of a handful of new ways that the UK government is planning to live under the ‘new normal,’ which is outlined in the recently-published Living with COVID-19 policy.
The move was hailed as a landmark moment by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who stated that, “The UK is leading the world in removing all remaining COVID-19 travel restrictions… I said we wouldn’t keep travel measures in place for any longer than necessary, which we’re delivering on today – providing more welcome news and greater freedom for travelers.”
Although this comes as excellent news for visitors to the United Kingdom, it is important to note that the rules may change at any moment.
The government declared that, if there is a sudden uptick in new cases or a new dangerous variant, they have a set of contingency measures in place. The announcement also noted that they will take the least stringent measures in order to minimize the impact on tourism and the economy.
Traveling to the United Kingdom
Even though the UK government may have relaxed its entry requirements in regards to the coronavirus, the Border Agency still requires all visitors to have some sort of travel authorization.
This can be in the form of a traditional visa, an electronic travel authorization (also known as the UK ETA), or an Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW).
The UK electronic travel authorization is the latest development from the UK Home Office, and allows travelers from more than 50 countries to apply. Nationals who fall under this scheme include citizens of all European Union Countries, as well as Canada, Japan, South Korea, and the United States of America, among others.
Similarly, the Electronic Visa Waiver program is a scheme that was specially-designed for nationals from four Gulf countries: the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman.
The EVW can be used to enter the United Kingdom for tourism, conducting business, studying, or to receive short-term medical treatment. Under this program, travelers can stay in the country for up to 6 months.
Finally, all other travelers who are not eligible for a UK ETA or EVW will need to apply for a traditional visa.