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Immigration Rules and business visits

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We keep hearing from politicians that Britain is “open for business” and, in light of Brexit, will encourage global trade. Some top London immigration solicitors have questioned how a desire to welcome business to Britain will be reconciled with the growing pressure to restrict Immigration.

At present, if a business person wants to come to the UK, they may need a visa to do so. A visa will be necessary if the traveller is from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or from Switzerland. If the business traveller is from within the EEA, they will not need a visa to travel to the UK for business purposes but they could be refused entry at their point of entry to the UK if border control officials are not satisfied about the purpose of their visit or that they intend to leave the UK at the end of their visit.

Is a business visa necessary?

If an overseas visitor is coming to the UK for business purposes, they will need to apply online for a visa to do so if they are nationals from outside the EEA or Switzerland. However, the government has abolished various specialist types of visa, including visas for business travellers and entrepreneurs. The government has introduced the standard visitor visa that covers visits to the UK for business, sport and leisure purposes.

How does a business traveller use a standard visitor visa?

If a non EEA national business person wants to come to the UK for business purposes they need to apply for the standard visitor visa as the visa covers:

• A business person coming to the UK for a conference, meeting or training; or

• An entrepreneur who wants to get funding to start, take over, join or run a business in the UK.

How long does a standard visitor visa last for?

The best London immigration solicitors advise that a standard visitor visa lasts for 6 months but it is possible to apply to extend the standard visitor visa if you need to continue to visit the UK regularly for business purposes.

Business travellers can apply for a long-term standard visitor visa that can last for 2, 5 or 10 years. Top Immigration solicitors advise that a long term standard visitor visa does not mean that a business visitor can stay in the UK for up to 10 years, but the visa does mean that the business traveller can stay for a maximum of 6 months on each business visit and does not have to keep applying for 6 month standard visitor visa until the expiry of the long term visa.

What business activities can be carried out on a standard visitor visa?

The Immigration Rules state that a business traveller coming to the UK on a standard visitor visa can:

• Attend meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews; and

• Give one-off or a short series of talks and speeches. This is provided that the talks are not arranged for profit for the organiser or as a commercial activity; and

• Negotiate and sign deals and contracts; and

• Go to trade fairs for promotional purposes only and provided that the overseas visitor is not directly engaged in selling; and

• Carry out site visits and inspections and gather information for their Employment overseas; and

• Be briefed on the requirements of a UK based customer on the proviso that any work for the customer is not carried out within the UK.

The best London immigration solicitors advise that the Immigration Rules are slightly different if a business traveller is employed by an overseas company and is coming to the UK to carry out intra company work.

What business activities can be undertaken for Intra-company purposes?

An employee of an overseas based company who comes to the UK for company business purposes on a standard visitor visa may:

• Advise and consult and trouble-shoot; and

• Provide training and share skills and knowledge on a specific internal company enterprise or scheme with UK employees of the same corporate enterprise, provided no work is carried out directly with clients;

• Provide an internal audit, including the carrying out of financial audits or regulatory checks at a UK branch of the same group of companies as the overseas business traveller’s overseas employer.

Prospective entrepreneur and business travellers and specific industries

If an overseas visitor who is travelling for business purposes is an entrepreneur or the business traveller is linked to a specific industry or sector then slightly different Immigration Rules apply to the activities that are authorised under a standard visitor visa, for example:

• An entrepreneur overseas visitor who can show support from registered venture capitalist firms regulated by the financial conduct authority; or

• A business traveller in the manufacturing and supply of goods to the UK can install, dismantle, repair, service or advise on equipment, computer software or hardware where it has a contract of purchase or supply or lease with a UK company or organisation;

• A business client of a UK export company may be seconded to the UK company in order to oversee the requirements for goods and services that are being provided under contract by the UK company or its subsidiary company, provided the two companies are not part of the same group.

As the rules relate to specific industries, it is prudent for overseas business travellers and UK companies engaged in intra company transfers of employees to get expert legal Immigration advice from top London immigration solicitors to ensure that the complicated Immigration Rules are complied with. If the Rules are not followed, the Home Office could refuse to extend a standard visitor visa or refuse to grant a further one.

Business travellers and eligibility criteria for a standard visitor visa

The best London immigration solicitors advise that for a business owner, employee or entrepreneur to successfully apply for a standard visitor visa they need to be able to establish that:

• The visitor will leave the UK at the end of their visit; and

• The visitor is able to support themselves and any dependents for the duration of the standard visitor visa; and

• The visitor can pay for their return or onward journey and any other costs relating to the visit; and

• The business traveller has proof of any business or other activities they want to do in the UK and that the activities are in accordance with the detailed regulations contained in the Visitor Rules.

As Britain is very much “open for business”, it is important that overseas business travellers and companies arranging intra company transfers take specialist top London Immigration law advice so that they and their employees do not fall foul of the complex Immigration Rules relating to what specific business activities can be undertaken whilst visiting the UK on a standard visitor visa.

OTS Solicitors regularly advise on all aspects of business immigration and have substantial expertise in securing visas for overseas business visitors and intra-corporate activities. OTS Solicitors expert advice on business travel and visas is recognised by the legal directory of leading UK lawyers, Legal 500. The firm is ranked for business immigration services. In addition, OTS Solicitors have Law Society accredited solicitors’ status as trusted specialists in Immigration law.

For more information on overseas business travellers and the laws relating to business activities and standard visitor visas or other aspect of business immigration law please call us on 0203 959 9123 to arrange an appointment to speak to one of our experienced London immigration solicitors who will be happy to help.

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