New rules for business visitors to the United Kingdom

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On 24 April 2015, the immigration rules concerning visitors to the UK will fundamentally change; making it much easier for non-EU nationals to do business in the UK.

Key points:

  • 15 visitor categories reduced to four
  • Business activities can now be carried out under the 'standard' category
  • Permitted business activities greatly widened
  • Visiting lawyers, academics and sportspersons can now be paid for work done in the UK (up to one month)

Overview

The changes make it clearer what business visitors can and cannot do whilst they are in the UK. 

Under the current system, it is commonplace for bone fide business visitors to be inadvertently in breach of the requirements of the immigration rules. 

The new system allows business people to carry out a wider range of activities under broader categories. 

Under the current system, the main visitor category is strictly for tourism or visiting family members for short periods of time. The visitor is not allowed to do any form of study, other than short courses for leisure purposes (excluding English language courses), and is prohibited from carrying out any kind of business activities at all. 

Under the current system if a person wishes to undertake business activities, s/he is required to enter as a 'business visitor'. If there is some kind of misunderstanding on entry and the person is admitted as a general visitor, it can have serious implications for that person. Even if s/he attends a business meeting, it would constitute a breach of the conditions of entry to the UK. 

Less restricted business activity

The new rules allow business visitors far more freedom in what they can do in the UK. For example, under the current rules, the person can only attend meetings arranged before the person comes to the UK. 

From 24 April 2015, the person can: attend non pre-arranged meetings; work in the UK office of his/her company (not directly with clients); and work directly for a client for which the person's foreign employers have a contract. 

Lawyers will be able to advise UK clients on international litigation or transactions under the standard category. 

Permitted paid engagements

A separate new category is 'Permitted Paid Engagements', which will allow: academics to be paid for giving lectures, examining or selecting students; lawyers to be paid for providing advocacy at a court or arbitration hearing; and artists and sportspersons to be paid for an activity directly related to their profession.

Entry under this category will be for a maximum of one month. 

Other changes to the visitor rules

The rules for visitors are being comprehensively changed and/or consolidated. There are many changes, too lengthy too list in in this update. By way of summary, the four new visitor categories are:

  1. Visitor (standard) (up to six months in most cases)
  2. Visitor for marriage or civil partnership (up to six months)
  3. Visitor for permitted activities (up to one month)
  4. Transit visitor (up to 48 hours)

Further information

For further information about coming to the UK as a visitor, or for any other immigration query, please contact Lisa Parsons,Partner and Head of Immigration, on 020 7814 5495 or email.

Blake Morgan offers a full immigration compliance audit service to ensure your business is fully compliant with immigration laws and procedure.