Shelly and I just returned home from our first European trip since the pandemic. The landscape for international travel has changed and it is currently not business as usual. If you land in the UK, even just to change planes, you need to complete and submit the UK passenger locator form.
Negative Covid Test Results
Our final destination was Zurich, Switzerland. Both the UK and Switzerland conform to the standard 72-hour negative PCR test for entry. To calculate the Covid optimal covid testing time:
- I took the arrival time at Zurich,
- I subtracted the nine-hour time difference,
- I added back six hours in case of flight delays and
- I was able to use the same test results for both the UK and Switzerland.
Walgreen’s will perform the PCR test at no charge. Here is the link that I used to schedule Covid testing at Walgreens.
Submitting the UK Passenger Locator Form
If you land anywhere in the UK, you need to complete and submit the UK passenger locater form. Click here to be directed to the UK Visa and Immigration site for this form. Please be aware, if you are just changing planes and not leaving the airport, you must present the QR code on the form when passing through passport control. In our case, we arrived at London Heathrow Terminal 5 on American Airlines flight 50 to depart Heathrow Terminal 5 on British Airways flight 712 to Zurich, Switzerland. We never left the confines of Heathrow Airport or even Terminal 5.
You must complete and submit this form to UK Visas and Immigration prior to departing for the UK but no sooner than 48 hours before entering the UK.
Before we left home, I printed out all of the following documents:
- Airline confirmations,
- Hotel confirmations,
- Tour confirmations,
- Covid test results,
- Passenger Locator form for the UK and
- Preclearance form from the Switzerland Federal Office of Public Health.
I had all of my documents filed in chronological order. This was provided a major advantage because people were frantically scrolling through their cell phones trying to find their entry documentation. If you have spotty internet connectivity, having printouts will speed you through passport control.
The “Gottcha Question”
This form has a problem for those that are only changing flights at an airport in the UK. When we were in the line at passport control, we noticed a number of Americans pulled aside. These people were only at Heathrow Airport to change planes and they all had the wrong answer to the same question on the locator form. Shelly and I found ourselves in the same situation. Here is the “gotcha question”.
All of us chose to change flights in the UK within 24 hours, without going through UK border control. This is the wrong answer because your first step past passport control is considered crossing the border. The immigration official told us that the correct answer is to stay in the UK. To any logical thinker, the stay in the UK answer would not seem correct. If you answer this question wrong, you will have to fill out and submit a new form. You are not permitted to edit the form that you already submitted.
Here is the problem, you can not change planes without passing through passport control first. When you deplane, you follow the line through immigration.
What We Did
First off, passport control was severely understaffed and we had to go to British Airways to get our boarding passes since that flight was on a different reservation. I got my new form completed and we were concerned about making our connecting flight since we had already been in passport control for an hour. The immigration officer let my wife pass under the condition that she submit a new form by midnight that night.
After four flights and navigating the new international travel, I forgot to submit a new form for my wife. I received this text message the next day from the UK government that said:
“You recently completed a passenger locator form. Based on the details you gave, you need to complete a testing regime. Follow the guidance at gov.uk/guidance/bespoke-testing-regimes-for-exempt-groups.
We will send you 2 SMS messages that will come from +44 7860 099071 if you are using a UK phone number. This will vary if you have a non-UK number. Please reply within 24 hours of receiving each message. This will be charged as part of your standard tariff.
We will never ask you for any personal or financial information. Our messages will only ever contain links to information from https://gov.uk”.
This actually wasn’t the correct information but it did remind me to submit a new passenger locator form for my wife. If you are permitted to exit passport control on your word to resubmit your passenger locator form, UK Visas and Immigration will be looking for a new form. They will let you know that you have failed to follow through. There are penalties in the form of fines for failure to comply.
Whether you land in the UK for a stay or just to change planes, you will need to fill out the UK Passenger Locator Form. If you are remaining within the confines of the airport while changing plans, be advised that you will have crossed the border as defined by UK Immigration. For those of you changing flights, be sure to check the correct box for the question: What are your travel plans?.
I would recommend that you print out all of your travel documents and file them in the order you will need to refer to them. This will make life easier especially if you have spotty internet access.