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My significant other has just been granted a 6 month multiple entry visitor visa to the UK. They visited the UK twice before in 2019 with another visitor visa.

I haven't seen them for 14 months due to the pandemic; the purpose of the trip is to visit me

A couple of months ago they got covid-19 (so they now have antibodies against it, which makes them more willing to take the risks inherent in travel). I'm sponsoring the accommodation and other costs for the visit (we documented this in the visa application). Obviously due to the covid-19 restrictions, we haven't planned activities more elaborate than an outdoor walk (after the quarantine period, obviously).

Besides that, it seems to be a good moment for a visit (due to the decreased number of cases). There's no guarantee that a few months down the line (especially after restrictions are relaxed) the numbers won't get worse again, or Russia might be placed in the red list (preventing them from visiting at all).

From the UK side, travel from Russia is allowed for visa holders, with the quarantine and testing restrictions in place since February (as long as Russia isn't added to the red list). Confusingly, on the Russian side, there are reports of flights being suspended between UK and Russia:

https://ria.ru/20210316/aviasoobschenie-1601472354.html

and yet, flights between Moscow and London are ongoing:

https://www.flightstats.com/v2/flight-tracker/SU/2578

When trying to confirm the flight situation with the airline, they raised the concern that my SO might not be allowed in with their visa.

Obviously, a visa doesn't guarantee entry, and immigration officers might refuse it. But the specific concern in this case seems to be the reason for the visit, and the fact that it's a short term visa. I think this point is moot, since once granted, as long as the visit is complying with the conditions of the visa, the UK doesn't care about differences between visas.

The differences matter later (when renewing/applying for other visas, since some work visas might be able to be renewed, but a visitor visa instead is obviously limited to its duration and the 180 days maximum stay).

Since airlines might incur fines if the passenger is refused entry, I think it's more likely that Aeroflot might actually refuse boarding (rather than my SO being refused entry after landing). Before Brexit, I know that if their documents are valid, they could be eligible for compensation in such circumstances, though this is another matter.

I know that there had been refusals related to the pandemic, like in this case:

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/apr/16/us-woman-refused-entry-uk-visit-pregnant-daughter

But there are at least two obvious differences:

  • That was way earlier in the pandemic, while the rules weren't as clear (and thus the officers probably had leeway in making decisions). Compared to now, where there's requirement to have tests both before and after the flight, plus quarantining, which significantly reduce risks.
  • That trip happened to a non-visa national travelling without a visa, afaik. Since my SO already got an entry clearance, I'd expect that there wouldn't be any surprising decisions.

In brief, I expect that the immigration officers will mainly try to verify that the purpose of the trip is allowed, and consistent with the entry permit. I checked the official guidance and it seems that all other conditions (deportation orders, criminal history, etc.) are either for much more severe circumstances, or circumstance that would've prevented the entry permit from being provided in the first place.

Is there anything that I'm missing? Should I expect stricter criteria than those listed in the guidelines?

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    It probably depends a bit on the intended duration of the stay and intended activities/reasons for the trip. Someone coming to visit for 7 days for sightseeing or shopping would automatically be rejected for instance since this is not compatible with the quarantine requirements. Even someone coming for 10 days of quarantine + 3 days of sightseeing would be considered with a lot of suspicion. The goal is to make sure that the intent is still credible taking into account quarantine and lockdown, and that it is likely the visitor will respect those.
    – jcaron
    Mar 17 at 14:13
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    A key information missing in the question is when your SO intend to take the trip and which country (England/Scotland/Wales/NI) you are based in. As of the time of writing, international travel for people resident in England for holiday and social visit (or more generally, non-essential purposes) are not permitted until 17 May the earliest. I'd assume similar measures will apply for those coming in (or else it will lead to a public outrage).
    – B.Liu
    Mar 17 at 15:05
  • @jcaron good point. They are going to stay for up to 1 month (lots of unspent holiday). We are considering to also book the extra test for the early quarantine release after 5 days, but we haven't confirmed yet.
    – berdario
    Mar 17 at 16:10
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    @B.Liu It's actually interesting that there are currently less restrictions for people coming into the UK than there are for people leaving the UK. But I wonder if indeed the obligation to follow national lockdown rules (currently) forbid such travel altogether. I can't find any rule allowing one to join their SO. Harsh.
    – jcaron
    Mar 17 at 18:05
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    "since airlines might incur fines if the passenger is refused entry": airline fines are based on whether the passenger has the necessary documents, not on whether the passenger is refused entry. That is why airlines don't ask you about your criminal record before they allow you to board the plane.
    – phoog
    Mar 18 at 3:17
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I was recently in the similar situation with planning a trip for my mum who’s a visitor visa holder.

I only followed the rules about requirements for entry concerning travellers from non red list countries including pre-departure negative test and booking Covid test package for day two and eight after arrival.

My mum was challenged at the airport for travelling during the pandemic while U.K. is in national lockdown. I was able to persuade the immigration officer that we were not intending to break any rules and was just following the official guides.

This may be seen as obvious with hindsight, however the confusion is caused by lack of explicit information by the government regarding certain visa holders in my opinion. I don’t think most people willingly want to break the rules!

After this I emailed both the consulate and the home office COVID unit and both referred me to the entry requirement for red list and non red list countries. They didn’t say she should not travel because she has visitor visa. This shows that there’s lack of clarity at government departments as well.

You may find this FT article useful though.

Personally, if I had been fully aware of the risks, I would have not planned the trip for my mum as it could have ended with her being refused entry after a long journey and jeopardising her future visits as well as application to renew her visa.

Best of luck

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