UK visit visa suspensions amid Omicron COVID strain

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The UK has lifted visit visa suspensions imposed on several countries placed on Britain’s red list amid the rising spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. In November, the UK government released a list of countries placed on the red list for which visit visa suspensions applied. 


At the time of the suspension being enforced, UK health secretary, Sajid Javid, announced that Omicron now makes up 20% of all UK COVID cases. 

However, explaining why the suspension of visit visas for certain countries was lifted, Javid said: “Now that there is community transmission of Omicron in the UK and Omicron has spread so widely across the world, the travel red list is now less effective in slowing the incursion of Omicron from abroad.”

Decision making on UK visit visa applications from nationals of the following countries was initially paused:

  • Angola

  • Botswana

  • Eswatini

  • Lesotho

  • Malawi

  • Mozambique

  • Namibia

  • Nigeria 

  • South Africa

  • Zambia

  • Zimbabwe

However, all countries on the red list have now been delisted and the processing of visit visa applications will now resume.


What are the rules for travel to the UK?

People currently travelling to the UK are now required to:

  • Take a COVID-19 test 48 hours prior to travelling to England

  • Quarantine in a hotel upon arriving in the UK, at their own expense, for 11 days

  • Complete a passenger locator form prior to arrival in the UK


The UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) department of the Home Office confirmed that it will resume the acceptance and processing of visit visa applications.


Omicron origin

The Omicron variant was first identified in South Africa, though some reports claim that the new COVID strain first emerged in the Netherlands prior to being identified in South Africa. The UK’s decision to suspend visit visa applications from red list countries had been made in order to minimise the spread of Omicron.

The following UK visa types were officially suspended prior to restrictions being lifted:

  • Tourism

  • Visiting family and friends

  • Undertaking short term business activities (such as conferences and meetings)

  • Student visas (for short term study under 6 months)

  • Taking part in research or academic exchange programmes

  • Medical reasons (such as private medical treatment)


Anyone attempting to enter the UK from a red list country on a visit visa amid the restrictions was denied entry unless the person travelling had what was deemed to be a ‘compelling and compassionate reason for their travel’.


Priority and super priority services

Following the lifting of restrictions, priority service and super priority visa services will resume.

The red list was initially set to be updated on 30 December, and reviewed every three weeks thereafter, for as long as was needed. It was hoped that by the next review at the end of this month that scientists would know more about the public health threat that Omicron poses.

However, the decision was made to lift restrictions as suspending entry into Britain seemed to have little effect on the spread of the Omicron variant.

It was only in September 2021 that the UK government started to ease travel restrictions following the disruption caused by the pandemic.


Traffic light system

Initially, the UK introduced a traffic light system of red, amber and green to determine who could and who couldn’t enter the UK at the height of the pandemic. However, on 17 September the UK transport secretary, Grant Shapps said that the traffic light system would be scrapped to be replaced by a ‘red list’ only.

The simplified restrictions were welcomed by the travel industry, which has been hit hard by the pandemic. However, despite the lifting of the latest restrictions, the Omicron strain is set to lead to more travel disruption, putting airline operators under pressure once again. can help with Sponsor Licences

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