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Business Immigration – EU Nationals Travelling to the UK for Business

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With the recent news about the opening up of the UK borders there is a lot of confusion. That confusion isn’t just about COVID-19 related restrictions but how Brexit and the end of free movement affects EU nationals wanting to enter the UK to do business. It is in everyone’s interests to clear up the confusion because if the UK is to successfully trade with the EU it needs easily understood immigration rules on EU nationals travelling to the UK for business purposes.

UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors 

For advice on any aspect of immigration law call the expert London immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

Immigration rules on business travel for EU nationals

The Home Office has recently updated its guidance for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who want to come to the UK for business. In this article refence to EU nationals includes reference to EEA and Swiss citizens.

If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen travelling to the UK for a business trip, you may not need to apply for a visa. That is because under the immigration rules EU nationals don’t require a visa for a trip to the UK lasting for up to six months.

Although you don’t need a visa for a trip of up to six months, the immigration rules say that you can't:

  • Work or do all types of business activity – it has to be ‘permissible’ business activity.
  • Although you can come and go to the UK you can't use six-month trips to live in the UK through frequent six-month trips to circumvent the UK points-based immigration system.

What can't a UK business visitor do?

Whether you come to the UK on a visitor visa or without a visa for a trip of up to six months you can't do the following activities:

  • Get a job in the UK.
  • Set up your own self-employed business in the UK.
  • Take up an internship or work placement.
  • Transfer your job to the UK branch of your international company.
  • Sell directly to the public.
  • Provide goods or services to the public.
  • Volunteer to do unpaid work for a UK company.

These immigration rules don’t apply to Irish citizens and the immigration rules are a bit different if you are an EU national coming to the UK via Ireland. If you think you come under that category it is best to speak to an immigration solicitor.

What can a UK business visitor do?

Focussing on the positive, let us look at what a UK business visitor can do if they come to the UK without applying for a visa. The immigration rules say that you can:

  • Attend meetings.
  • Go to conferences and seminars.
  • Attend job interviews. However, if you are coming to the UK for interviews, you must leave the UK to apply for a work visa. You can't stay in the UK and apply for the work visa from within the UK.
  • Give one or a short series of speeches provided the talk or talks are not organised as commercial events and will not make a profit for the organiser of the talk.
  • Sign contracts and negotiate deals.
  • Attend trade fairs for promotional work but you can't sell directly to the public from the fair.
  • Carry out site visits and inspections.
  • Provide information for your overseas based employer. For example, scouting out whether the UK would make a good branch office for your international employer.
  • Come to get information about the needs of a UK based customer. However, you can't do the work in the UK.
  • If you are an employee of an international company with an existing UK branch then as an overseas based employee of the international company you can carry out some intra-corporate activities. You can advise and consult, trouble-shoot, train and share skills on a specific internal project with UK employees in the same corporate group. These concessions don’t allow you to carry out any work directly with clients.
  • An internal auditor can conduct regulatory or financial audits at a UK branch of an overseas parent company.
  • If you are an employee of an overseas company and the company has a contract to purchase, supply or lease with a UK company or organisation which includes aftersales services, then you can install, dismantle, repair, service or advise on the equipment, computer software or hardware that your overseas based employer has contracted to provide.
  • Work-related training is permitted for overseas graduates from medical, dental or nursing schools . If you meet these criteria, you can participate in a clinical attachment or dental observation post but only if the post is unpaid and does not involve patient treatment.
  • If you are the employee of an overseas based company, you can receive training from a UK based company in work practices if the training is required for your employment overseas and isn’t available in your country.
  • An employee of an overseas based training company can deliver a short series of training sessions to employees of a UK based company provided that you as the trainer are employed by an overseas business that is contracted to provide international training to an international group and the UK branch of the company belongs to the international group.
  • An expert witness can come to the UK to give evidence in a UK court.
  • Witnesses to court proceedings may attend court hearings if summoned by the court.
  • An overseas qualified solicitor can advise a UK based client on specific international law.
  • An artist, entertainer, or musician can give performances as an individual or as part of a group, provided they are not being paid by a UK company or organisation.

The above list isn’t exclusive. If you want to come to the UK on a business trip but aren’t sure if you need a visa or if the work you are planning to undertake is classed as ‘permissible’ or not it is best to speak to an immigration solicitor. Call the immigration law team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123.

If your planned business activity does not fall within the permissible business activities the business immigration law team can look at alternate options, such as a temporary visa (for example, a creative and sporting worker visa or charity worker visa or seasonal worker) or an intra company transfer visa or sole representative visa.

 Job transfer to the UK

If you work for an overseas based company and the company wants you to move to the UK the likelihood is that you will need a visa to do so. The most obvious visa route is the intra company transfer visa. If you are a recent recruit the intra company graduate transfer visa may be the best visa opportunity for you.

Working in the UK

If you are an EU national who doesn’t qualify for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme  then you are subject to UK immigration controls and will need a UK work visa. There are a few different options, such as:

  • The skilled worker visa – this used to be called the Tier 2 (General) visa.
  • A temporary visa – for example, ifyou are a creative or seasonal worker.
  • The health and care worker visa.
  • The global talent visa.
  • The graduate visa
  • The frontier work permit.

How hard it is to get a business visa or work visa will depend on your job. For example, it is easier to get a skilled worker visa if your job is on the shortage occupation list but even if the job isn’t on the shortage occupation list you may still meet the eligibility criteria for the skilled worker visa.

Setting up a business in the UK

If you are interested in coming over from the EU and setting up a business in the UK then you can come over without a business visa to investigate the opportunities. If you decide to go ahead there are a range of business visa options, such as:

  • The sole representative visa – if you are setting up a UK branch or subsidiary of an overseas parent company and there is no existing branch or subsidiary in the UK.
  • The start-up visa – if you are an entrepreneur looking to set up a new innovative business this may be the best immigration route for you.
  • The innovator visa – if you have more business experience and you have an innovative and scalable business idea.
  • The investor visa – if you have funds to invest in the UK and you are content to invest the funds in government approved qualifying UK investment opportunities.

There are many different types of business visa and work visa options depending on your circumstances. It is best to check out whether your planned business trip to the UK falls within UK immigration rules so you have a clean immigration record if you later decide that you want to work or do business in the UK beyond your six-month UK stay.

UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors 

For advice on any aspect of immigration law call the immigration team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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