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Tier 4: What the Government guidance (but not the law) says about travel

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The Government has just published its guidance on travel for anyone living in a Tier 4 area in England. Can you travel in the UK or fly abroad if you live in Tier 4?

The official version is here but we have cut and pasted it below. One key point is that people living in Tiers 1-3 are specificially allowed to travel to Heathrow or other airports in Tier 4. Gatwick is NOT in Tier 4.

The majority of flights will continue since only a minority of the population is covered by Tier 4 restrictions.

As usual, what is ‘guidance’ and what is ‘the law’ can be different things. It will only be clear what constitutes an offence when the Statutory Instrument is published, and nothing will become law until that time. It is not clear when this will be – it had not been published by Sunday morning.

(EDIT: the legal text is now available and came into effect at 7am on Sunday – see our article here)

However, this line:

“You cannot leave home for holidays or stays overnight away from your main home unless permitted by law.”

…… implies that the offence will be for ‘leaving home’ and not for travelling abroad, or indeed in the UK, in itself – although you would still be committing an offence.

It is also worth remembering that countries may choose to bring in new restrictions on arrivals from the UK. The Netherlands has already banned flights from the UK until at least 1st January.

The situation is different in Scotland, with travel to or from the rest of the UK now illegal.

easyJet has announced that it will refund Tier 4 residents due to travel before the end of the year.

Coronavirus Tier 4 travel guidance

The following is quoted from gov.uk:

Travelling within a tier 4 area

If you live in a tier 4 area, you must stay at home. You must not leave your home to travel unless for work, education or other legally permitted reasons. If you need to travel you should stay local – meaning avoiding travelling outside of your village, town or the part of a city where you live – and look to reduce the number of journeys you make overall. The list of reasons you can leave your home and area include, but are not limited to:

  • work, where you cannot work from home
  • accessing education and for caring responsibilities
  • visiting those in your support bubble – or your childcare bubble for childcare
  • visiting hospital, GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health
  • buying goods or services from premises that are open in Tier 4 areas, including essential retail, but these should be within your local area wherever possible
  • spending time or exercising outdoors. This should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel a short distance within your Tier 4 area to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space)
  • attending the care and exercise of a pet, or veterinary services

If you need to travel, walk or cycle where possible, and plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport. This will allow you to practise social distancing while you travel.

Avoid car sharing with anyone from outside your household or your support bubble. See the guidance on car sharing.

If you need to use public transport, you should follow the safer travel guidance.

Travelling out of a tier 4 area

You must stay at home and not leave your Tier 4 area, other than for legally permitted reasons such as:

  • travel to work where you cannot work from home
  • travel to education and for caring responsibilities
  • visit those in your support bubble – or your childcare bubble for childcare
  • attend hospital, GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health

The full list of exceptions will be published in the Regulations.

Travelling to a tier 4 area from a tier 1, 2 or 3 area

You should not travel into a Tier 4 area from another part of the UK, other than for reasons such as:

  • travel to work where you cannot work from home
  • travel to education and for caring responsibilities
  • to visit those in your support bubble – or your childcare bubble for childcare
  • to attend hospital, GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health

You should continue to practise safe behaviours on public transport:

  • plan ahead, check for disruption before you leave, and avoid the busiest routes, as well as busy times
  • avoid making unnecessary stops during your journey
  • avoid sharing a car with people not in your household
  • keep your distance from other people when you travel, where possible
  • wash or sanitise your hands regularly

International travel to or from a tier 4 area

If you are in Tier 4, you should not be travelling abroad unless it is permitted. In addition, you should consider the public health advice in the country you are visiting.

If you live outside a tier 4 area you may still transit into or through a tier 4 area to travel abroad if you need to, but you should carefully consider whether you need to do so. In addition, you should follow the public health advice in the country you’re visiting.

If you do need to travel overseas from a tier 4 area (and are legally permitted to do so, for example, because it is for work), even if you are returning to a place you’ve visited before, you should look at the rules in place at your destination and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice.

UK residents currently abroad do not need to return home immediately. However, you should check with your airline or travel operator on arrangements for returning.

Staying away from home overnight

You cannot leave home for holidays or stays overnight away from your main home unless permitted by law. This means that holidays in the UK and abroad are not allowed. This includes staying in a second home or caravan, or staying with anyone you do not live with or are in a support bubble with.

You are allowed to stay overnight away from your home if you:

  • are unable to return to your main residence
  • need accommodation while moving house
  • need accommodation to attend a funeral or related commemorative event
  • require accommodation for work purposes or to provide voluntary services
  • are a child requiring accommodation for school or care
  • are homeless, seeking asylum or a vulnerable person seeking refuge
  • are an elite athlete or their support staff or parent, if the athlete is under 18 and it is necessary to be outside of the home for training or competition

If you are already on holiday in a Tier 4 area, you should return to your home as soon as practical

Guest accommodation providers such as hotels, B&Bs and caravan parks may remain open for the specific reasons set out in law, including where guests are unable to return to their main residence, use that guest accommodation as their main residence, need accommodation while moving house, are self-isolating as required by law, or would otherwise be made homeless as a result of the accommodation closing. Accommodation providers are also encouraged to work cooperatively with Local Authorities to provide accommodation to vulnerable groups including the homeless in tier 4 areas.

Comments (364)

  • Mike says:

    My partner and I applied for residency in Spain last November where we have a long term rental property. We had to return to finalise divorces, pensions and other bits and bobs so same back mid residency application. We tried flying back out to Spain on boxing Day when the UK government’s advice was that we could fly if we took proof of residency application, but we were refused boarding by Ryanair. We have rented out our UK property and are living with friends until Spain reopen their borders to non residents (currently 5th Jan – fingers crossed this isn’t extended) given that our main residency is now going to be in Spain but we’re pending residency, are we going to fall fowl of newly enforced teir 4 restrictions? I’m confused what constitutes ‘legally permitted reason’ for travel! Who can we check with that or situation/reasons will be accepted? We really don’t want to have to go through obtaining covid tests/ tickets etc only to be refused again (it cost us approx £500 for the boxing Day refusal)

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!

    • Rob says:

      There is another article, if you search HfP, with the full legal text in it.

      For clarity, for the umpteenth time, there are NO restrictions on travel. There are restrictions on why you can leave your house. You are committing an offence by leaving your house to go to the airport, and not for travelling itself.

      Any valid excuse for travel has to be an excuse for ‘leaving the house’ such as exercise, viewing a property etc.

      • Mike says:

        Ok Rob, thanks for the clarification. Apologies if this has been answered previously.

        All the best for the new year!

      • f says:

        rob so you are saying as long as the reason for travel is not denied by the airline you are only risking getting a fine on the way airport?

        • Rob says:

          Yes, or whilst walking past a policeman inside the airport on your way to security. The airline does not care why you are travelling.

  • Stella Dugdale says:

    I am an English citizen currently in Canada and am hoping to fly into Heathrow on Tuesday 12 January 2021.
    I live in Tier 4 in Essex and am disabled… is it legal for my husband collect me?

  • Rose says:

    I have pre planned medical treatment scheduled for March and paid deposit upfront. What evidence would they require at the airport for this? Would I be allowed to board as I live in tier 4 area? Is this legally permitted