EU Business Visitors:
Understanding the Different Types of
Travel to the UK

EU Business Visitors: Understanding the Different Types of Travel to the UK

Under the UK’s new immigration system, EU nationals can continue to visit the UK without obtaining a visa as long as they only participate in allowable activities. In most cases business visitors can stay for up to 6 months in any rolling 12-month period. They may enter the UK multiple times during that period, but they may not live in the UK by means of frequent or successive visits. Visa-free EU travelers may participate in a wide range of activities – including business-related activities such as meetings or events – but must also understand that there are a number of activities that are prohibited without a visa.

It is important to note that the risks are high for undertaking prohibited activities and penalties for non-compliance are severe. Individuals and businesses face serious immigration compliance risks including travel bans and financial penalties of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker undertaking prohibited activities without holding an appropriate visa. Understanding the following travel types and activities is crucial for travel managers to ensure compliance with these new regulations.

  1. Permissible activities are activities directly linked to an EU national’s overseas employment. These include:

    • Attending meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews
    • Giving a one-off or short series of talks and speeches provided these are not organized as commercial events and will not make a profit for the organizer
    • Negotiating and signing deals and contracts provided any work agreed to is carried out either outside the UK or by UK colleagues with the correct work permission to do so
    • Attending trade fairs, for promotional work only provided they are not directly selling
    • Carrying out site visits and inspections
    • Gathering information for employment overseas, this can include discussions with clients or UK colleagues
    • Being briefed on the requirements of a UK based customer provided any work for the customer is done outside the UK

    While in the UK, the business visitor can keep in contact with their overseas employer and receive reasonable travel and living expenses from sources in the UK as long as they remain on overseas payroll. 

  2. Intra-corporate activities are activities undertaken by individuals employed by a group company overseas, who are visiting their UK branch of the business. Permissible intra-corporate activities include:

    • Advising and consulting, providing this is on internal matters with UK colleagues
    • Troubleshooting on internal matters
    • Providing training on internal matters (not training to clients)
    • Sharing skills and knowledge on a specific internal project with UK employees of the same corporate group provided no work is carried out directly with clients
    • As an internal auditor, carrying out internal regulatory or financial audits at a UK branch of the same group of companies as the visitor's employer overseas providing all audits are for internal matters

    Intra-corporate activities should:

    • Be of short duration (1+ month attracts Home Office suspicion of perceived abuse)
    • Be linked to a specific project
    • Not involve the visitor directly working with or for clients (the visitor should be based mainly at the UK company offices and not at client sites unless attending meetings with clients)
  3. Prohibited activities are activities that cannot be carried out without obtaining a relevant work authorisation prior to arrival in the UK. Prohibited activities include, but are not limited to:

    • Taking employment in the UK
    • Doing work for an organization or business in the UK, including the delivery or receipt of 'on the job' training
    • Establishing or running a business as a self-employed person
    • Doing a work placement or internship
    • Providing temporary cover/short-term cover for a UK role
    • Direct selling to the public
    • Providing goods and services

Finally, note that where the visitor is already employed and paid outside the UK, they must remain so. 

CIBTvisas stands ready to support you and your travel program. We’re offering new tools such as the Post-Brexit Business Travel assessment. Contact your dedicated CIBTvisas Account Manager today for more information. Don’t have an Account Manager? Contact us.

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