26 Nov 2021

International travel and demonstrating COVID-19 status

Government guidance on how to demonstrate your COVID-19 status for travel International travel and demonstrating COVID-19 status
  • This updates the news item of 23 November 2021

The red list of countries and territories continues to be reviewed. Countries and territories may be added and travel restrictions may be imposed at any time to protect UK public health [1]. Details on the red list countries and territories and rules for travel to England from these locations can be found on GOV.UK. 

The rules for travel to England from countries not on the red list depend on the age and vaccination status of the person travelling.

All travellers should continue to follow any local requirements and always maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene, regardless of the number or type of COVID-19 vaccines received or whether they have had COVID-19 infection and now recovered.

There may be different requirements for travellers returning to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

The World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend proof of COVID-19 vaccination as the only pathway or condition permitting international travel [2]. However, some countries have indicated that entry requirements may be eased for travellers who can demonstrate their COVID-19 vaccination status or previous COVID-19 infection when travelling abroad.

The Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) details current entry requirements for countries worldwide, including information about self-isolation and necessary COVID-19 testing.

The NHS COVID Pass is available to those aged 16 or older for travel abroad. Most children under 16 years of age are not currently being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the UK, but they may need to show a negative test result, depending on their age and travel destination requirements [3,4].

On 1 November 2021 the UK linked with the EU Gateway, so the NHS COVID-19 pass can now be scanned to allow for inbound and outbound travel, but also for domestic use across the EU and over 20 other countries. This will enable access to venues requiring proof of vaccination e.g. restaurants, theatres and clubs. The Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) details the domestic requirements in each country regarding necessary documentation.

England

Those vaccinated in England, can access their NHS COVID Pass through the NHS website or via the NHS App where any of the following apply:

  • a full course of an approved COVID-19 vaccine is completed in England.
  • proof of natural immunity shown by a positive PCR test result for COVID-19, lasting for 180 days after the date of the positive test and following completion of the self-isolation period is available.
  • participated in a clinical trial and were told you received a full course of vaccine (includes the Novavax vaccine trial).

A booster dose of COVID-19 vaccination will show on the NHS COVID Pass within five days. A COVID Pass for travel will show a 2D barcode for the full course of vaccinations and any booster doses [3].

Information can be accessed in a range of alternative formats and translated versions are available, although travellers still need original documentation in English to demonstrate COVID-19 vaccination status for entry to England [3].

Children aged 16 or over can get an NHS COVID Pass for travel, but should follow the entry requirements of the country they are travelling to [3].

Travellers who cannot access the internet or do not have a smartphone, and know their planned destination requires COVID-19 vaccination status, can call the NHS helpline on 119 to request a letter be posted to their home address. Alternatively, a letter can be requested through the NHS website.

The UK Government recognises the WHO Emergency Use List (WHO EUL) COVID-19 vaccines including Pfizer BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca, Moderna Janssen (Johnson and Johnson),Sinovac, Sinopharm Beijing and Covaxin vaccines for inbound travel to England [5,6]. Formulations of these vaccines, such as Astra Zeneca Covishield, AstraZeneca Vaxzevria and Moderna Takeda also qualify as approved vaccines [5].

The COVID-19 entry rules for children travelling to England no longer depend on their place of residence. All children under 18 years, coming to England from non-red listed countries are now treated as fully vaccinated at the border. This means that children aged 17 and under do not have to quarantine on arrival in England (whether they are vaccinated or not) and are exempt from day 8 testing. Children aged 5 to 17 years do not have to take a COVID-19 test before travel to England, but still need to take a test on or before day 2 after arrival (arrival day is day 0). Children aged 4 and under do not have to take any COVID-19 travel tests [6,7].

Travellers with children should check the rules in the county they are travelling from, as they may require children to take a test before travel to England. There are different rules for children who have been in a red list country in the 10 days before arrival in England [4].

Scotland

If COVID-19 vaccination was received in Scotland, the NHS Scotland COVID Status app can be used by those aged 18 years or older to access COVID-19 status for international travel. Alternatively, for those aged 12 years or over, a printed copy of vaccination status can be accessed from NHS Inform Scotland online [sign in required] or by phoning the COVID-19 Status Helpline 0808 196 8565.

Wales

Individuals aged 16 years or older in Wales, who have received a full course of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, can access their NHS COVID Pass through the Welsh Government website. Those who are unable to access the digital NHS COVID Pass, or require a bilingual certificate, can request a paper COVID Pass by calling 0300 3035667.

Northern Ireland

Department of Health, Northern Ireland has introduced an automated method for citizens who have received both their COVID-19 vaccinations in Northern Ireland to apply for COVID vaccination certification.

The UK Government has a step by step guide for travellers explaining all the requirements to help plan safe international travel.

Some people are unable to be vaccinated and can apply for this to be recognised for an NHS COVID Pass.

Each country decides whether those with a medical exemption qualify for relaxed border measures.

Resources

Entering the UK: border measures update

Updated requirements for passengers returning to the UK Read more

COVID-19: general advice for travellers

Advice for travellers from the UK on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 outbreak Read more

Polio: Public Health Emergency of International Concern

An update on the polio Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) Read more

Avian influenza infection and international travel

Increased avian flu cases in China, UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) reminder Read more
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