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New Immigration Rules: Business Visitors to the UK

As of 31 January 2024, the UK has undertaken substantial revisions to the immigration rules for business visitors. These changes widen the spectrum of permitted business activities for visitors, allowing overseas professionals and employees to engage in a broader range of business activities whilst in the UK.

Overseas workers

Overseas employees of the same corporate group now have expanded opportunity for direct engagement with UK clients, and can now advise, consult, trouble-shoot, provide training, and participate in knowledge sharing directly with UK clients so long as:

  1. this is in the context of an intra-corporate setting and the client-facing activity is incidental to their overseas employment; and
  2. the business activities are required for the delivery of a project/service to a UK client by the UK branch of the visitor’s overseas employer and are not part of a project/service being directly delivered to a UK client by the overseas employer.

These changes signify a departure from the previous rules, where intra-corporate activities were primarily for the benefit of the visitor’s employer overseas. Now, individuals can leverage their expertise more broadly within their organisation, fostering greater collaboration and efficiency across international teams.

Remote work

The updated rules permit UK visitors to engage in remote work related to their overseas employment, provided it isn’t the primary purpose of their visit. ‘Employment’ includes various activities such as paid/unpaid work, self-employment, and business/professional engagements. However, restrictions apply; remote work cannot be the primary reason for the visit, visitors cannot be employed in the UK, and payments from UK sources are generally prohibited.

Home Office guidance now acknowledges remote meetings and lists factors officials consider in assessing whether remote work is primary, such as financial viability without remote work, length of stay, nature of remote work, and intentions regarding UK residence. While the rules allow for remote work, caution is advised due to potential scrutiny and the possibility of future changes, such as the introduction of a digital ‘nomad visa’, to ensure compliance with visitor requirements and immigration regulations.

Rebecca Hone

Senior Associate

View profile

+44 20 7539 8019

Monica Mastropasqua

Paralegal

View profile

+44 20 7539 8021

The requirement for legal services to be solely for UK-based clients has been eliminated, acknowledging the complexities of legal work involving diverse client parties and practices.

Legal activities

The amended rules now permit a range of legal activities for overseas lawyers, including advising, appearing in arbitrations, acting as an arbitrator/mediator, expert witnessing, court appearances, conferences, teaching, advocacy for court/tribunal hearings, litigation, and transactional legal services. The requirement for legal services to be solely for UK-based clients has been eliminated, acknowledging the complexities of legal work involving diverse client parties and practices. However, those providing legal services in the UK must ensure compliance with general visitor requirements, such as genuine visitation, abstaining from prohibited activities, and adhering to payment restrictions.

Each case warrants individual assessment to determine whether services fall under permitted activities or require additional authorisation, such as permitted paid engagement or alternative immigration permissions e.g., the Skilled Worker or Law Society Government Authorised Exchange routes.

Permitted Paid Engagements

The restructuring and expansion of permitted paid engagements (PPE) in the UK offers various benefits and adjustments for visitors. To qualify, visitors must receive an invitation from a recognised organization, be over 18 upon arrival, and complete entry formalities within 30 days. This change streamlines entry procedures, allowing non-visa nationals to use the passport e-Gates and ensuring proper authorisation for their engagements.

Moreover, PPE visitors can now undertake recreational courses for up to 30 days or pursue studies/research for six months with accredited institutions, subject to specific criteria. However, visitors must carefully time their entry to conclude engagements within 30 days and avoid accepting multiple PPEs during one visit, requiring fresh entry and visa procedures for subsequent engagements. Additionally, there are no alterations for non-visa nationals using the Creative Worker visa concession, maintaining the requirement for Border Force approval upon arrival, with stays limited to three months.

Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA)

As of 22 February 2024, nationals from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Jordan will undergo revised visitation procedures for the UK. The existing Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) system for the Gulf states and visa requirement for Jordanians will cease. Instead, they’ll need to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) before travel, costing £10 for a two-year validity or until passport expiry. This is a considerable reduction compared to the previous EVW fee of £30 per entry or standard visitor visa fees ranging from £115 to £963. The transition to ETAs simplifies entry processes, likely garnering positive reception amongst visitors from these nations.

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Disclaimer
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

Rebecca Hone

Senior Associate

View profile

+44 20 7539 8019

Monica Mastropasqua

Paralegal

View profile

+44 20 7539 8021

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