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The use of Business Visitor Visas for Remote Overseas Workers

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UK immigration solicitors know that one of the lasting effects of the COVID-19 is the rise in remote overseas workers as the global pandemic forced UK employers to look at the alternatives, including the employment of remote overseas workers. As the UK opens up to business, UK business owners are asking immigration solicitors if their remote overseas based workers can come to the UK for work purposes. In this article we look at the use of business visitor visas for overseas staff.

UK Online and London Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

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

Business immigration and the remote overseas worker  

Although we all are now experts in zoom meetings and working remotely there are some things that really need to be done in person, face to face. UK employers of remote overseas workers understand the limits of online chats and are asking for advice on how to resolve the business immigration aspects of remote workers coming to the UK.

Immigration solicitors first need to know the context of the immigration and employment queries. For example:

  • Does the UK employer have a Home Office issued sponsor licence or intend to apply for a sponsor licence?
  • Does the UK employer have a UK and an overseas business base?
  • Is the remote worker employed by the UK company or is the worker employed through an agency or on a freelance basis?
  • Does the employer want the remote worker to be based in the UK on a full time or part time basis or simply require the worker to travel to the UK on an ad hoc basis to meet specific business needs. For example, to participate in company training events or interviews.
  • What work is the remote overseas worker contracted to do for the UK employer? If the employer wants to transfer the worker’s job to the UK what, if any, are the employment law implications and will the job role meet the skill threshold and the minimum salary threshold for either the skilled worker visa or the intra company transfer visa?
  • If the UK employer wants the overseas remote worker to visit the UK on an occasional basis for work related activities, what is the anticipated frequency and duration of the visits and the planned business activities whilst the worker is in the UK?

Employers may not know the answers to all these immigration and employment questions but UK immigration lawyers can help business owners and HR directors work through business needs for remote overseas based workers to find the right business immigration solution for a business. That may involve the business visitor visa or a combination of visitor visas for some workers and sponsored work visas for others. From an employment law perspective, it is best to understand your business immigration options, before asking remote workers to travel to the UK.

The business visitor visa and the remote worker

Business visitor visa applications dropped sharply during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic but they are on the rise again as businesses get back to ‘business as normal’, though with ‘tweaks’ to take into account any COVID-19 related guidance and what they have learnt about the benefits of remote working during lockdowns and international travel restrictions.

With international travel on the increase again it is important that all overseas based employees understand that if they travel to the UK, they need to seek guidance if they are planning on working in the UK. For example, if they are coming on an extended trip to the UK to see family, the worker may think that they can work remotely from within the UK during their time in the UK. However, if they are subject to UK immigration control there are strict immigration rules that specify what business and work activities are permitted in the absence of a skilled worker visa or any other type of work visa or business visa. From an employer’s perspective, it is essential that employees comply with the immigration rules as failure to do so will not only affect the individual’s immigration record but also potentially affect the employer if the Home Office conclude the employee was working in the UK in breach of immigration rules or the employer failed to carry out right to work checks in accordance with the legislation.

If an employer already holds a sponsor licence, then they don’t want to do anything that will put their sponsor licence at risk of being downgraded, suspended or revoked. That is why it is best that there are clear policies in place for remote overseas workers.

If a remote overseas worker is coming to the UK they may or may not require a business visitor visa, depending on their nationality. If an overseas worker does not require a visa, then they will still need to explain the purpose of their visit to UK border officials. An incorrect explanation of planned business activities in the UK could result in them being refused entry clearance to the UK . That is why many UK employers prefer to obtain business visitor visas for all overseas remote workers coming to the UK to participate in permissible activities , whether they technically require a visa or not.

Under the business visitor visa immigration rules an overseas remote worker is only allowed to carry out permissible business activities whilst in the UK. The permissible business activities are defined in the immigration rules and include:

  • Attendance at meetings and trade fairs. Any work must be promotional work only, so no sales initiatives.
  • Negotiating and signing deals and contracts.
  • Carrying out site visits and inspections.
  • Providing one-off or a short series of talks provided the speeches are not organised as commercial fee generating events and will not make a profit for the business.
  • Gathering information needed for their overseas employment.

Whilst in the UK the remote overseas worker cannot:

  • Sell direct to the public.
  • Provide goods or services.
  • Be employed in the UK or do work for a business or organisation in the UK.
  • Work as part of a work placement or internship.

If work is required, rather than permissible business activities, then a skilled worker visa may be needed. If a UK business does not have a sponsor licence, then London immigration solicitors say that applying for a first sponsor licence is not as time consuming as some employers fear. Sponsorship Licence lawyers can help you fast track the sponsor licence application and the application by the worker for a skilled worker visa.

Other legal implications of remote overseas workers working in the UK

UK immigration solicitors emphasise that it is best that business owners get joined up specialist legal advice about facilitating or agreeing to workers that are based overseas coming to the UK for work purposes. That is because an employer, however well intentioned, can fall foul of UK employment or tax laws or face the consequences of an overseas remote worker complaining that they now face a tax liability in the UK as well as in the country where they are primarily resident because of double taxation rules.

Although the immigration rules and other rules can appear complicated on overseas remote workers carrying out work in the UK, this does not mean that it is impractical to organise and facilitate it. Overseas remote working can save considerable overheads and can work in conjunction with trips to the UK through use of business visitor visas.

LK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For advice on business visitor visas and immigration law call the expert London immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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