EU Nationals and the UK Visitor Visa
UK immigration solicitors have seen a rise in enquiries about UK visitor visas for EU nationals entering the UK on a short-term basis. That is partially because there has been a lot of public confusion over whether visitor visas are needed since the January 2021 introduction of the new UK points-based immigration system and the uncertainty over whether EU nationals can enter the UK after the end of the Brexit transition period and the termination of free movement rights for EU citizens on the 31 December 2020.
UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors
Do all EU nationals require visas?
With the end of free movement and the introduction of immigration controls for EU nationals it isn’t surprising that many EU citizens think that they can't enter the UK without a visa. That isn’t correct.
If you are an EU national who has pre-settled status or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme then you definitely don’t need a visa. EU nationals include citizens from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland as well as EU citizens.
An EU national with settled status doesn’t need a visitor visa because their free movement rights are preserved and they are free of UK immigration controls. If you have settled status, you therefore retain your right to live and work in the UK without requiring a visa to do so.
If you are an EU national without settled status you can still gain entry to the UK without making a visa application provided that you are visiting the UK as opposed to coming to the UK to work or to settle in the UK.
Entry clearance for visiting EU nationals is at border official discretion. This is because EU nationals are non-visa nationals who can enter the UK for up to six months to carry out what are described as ‘permissible activities’. Some business activities are included as permissible activities.
Employment of visiting EU nationals
Employment with a UK employer, whether or not the employer holds a Home Office issued sponsor licence to sponsor skilled worker visa holders, is not a permissible activity for an EU national visiting the UK even if the EU national only wants to take up employment in the UK on a short-term basis. To work in the UK as an employee of a company an EU national will need a suitable visa, such as a skilled worker visa or intra company transfer visa.
Permissible business activities for visiting EU nationals
If you are an EU national visiting the UK for six months or less then, with or without a visitor visa, the following are permissible business activities:
- Attending meetings (this covers job interviews).
- Attending conferences and seminars.
- The signing of deals and contracts.
- The conduct of site visits and inspections.
- Intra-corporate activities (no direct client contact or work is permitted).
- Religious workers who are preaching and doing pastoral work.
- Reporting and journalism work.
- Scientific and academic research work.
- Tour group work.
- Translation and interpretation work if you are an employee of an overseas business.
Is there a business visitor visa?
As UK business immigration solicitors, we receive a lot of enquiries about UK entry clearance for EU business visitors who are concerned that they will require a business visa and aren’t sure what visa category they fall into when they want to visit the UK for business reasons on a short-term basis.
Many EU nationals assume they need a business visitor visa to come to the UK on a short-term basis for business related reasons. A visa isn’t strictly necessary. When EU nationals say that they would nonetheless prefer to apply for a visa, so they don’t encounter entry clearance issues with UK border officials, they are surprised to hear that the UK doesn’t have a specific business visitor visa category.
There is no UK business visitor visa as the Home Office considers that the standard visitor visa is sufficient for short term business or pleasure visits to the UK. Many immigration solicitors are calling for a specific business visa now that EU nationals are caught in immigration controls, unless the EU citizen entered the UK before the 31 December 2020 and qualifies for pre-settled status or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.
At present if you are coming to the UK from the EU then, if you wish to do so, you can apply to the Home Office for a UK standard visitor visa to cover UK entry for business purposes but the visa will only last for a maximum of six months and the visa limits the types of business activities that you can undertake whilst in the UK on a visitor visa. The permissible business activities for an EU national are the same, whether the individual has come to the UK on a visitor visa or without a visa but with the intention to spend six months or less in the UK.
It is worthwhile paying attention to what types of business activities are permitted under the visitor visa as failure to comply with the immigration rules could result in a recording on your immigration records and impact on future immigration applications.
If you are a EU national visiting the UK on business, should you get a visitor visa?
Immigration solicitors understand that if you are an EU national coming to the UK for business or for a job interview it could be disastrous to your business plans or schedule to be refused entry clearance by border officials. Many business visitors from the EU are taking the view that it is easier to apply for a visitor visa rather than face the hassle of a border official refusing entry clearance.
If you decide that you don’t want to apply for a visitor visa then to minimise the risk of your being refused UK entry it is best to understand the immigration rules on permitted business activities in case you are questioned by a border official about your planned business activities whilst in the UK. Some EU national visitors who are coming to the UK for business purposes take the precautionary step of bringing evidence, in the form of a letter, explaining the job interview or business conference. The ultra-cautious EU national business traveller may still prefer that their immigration solicitors secure a business visitor visa for their peace of mind.
UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors