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New U.K. Rules Provide Flexibility to Business Visitors

  1. Immigration Blog
  2. New U.K. Rules Provide Flexibility to Business Visitors

The rules now allow legal professionals on business visit visas to advice clients, provide advocacy for a court or hearing, appear in arbitrations or courts or for conferences and teaching

The Government has made changes to immigration rules that allow visitors greater flexibility in permitted work-related activities while on business visits to the U.K.

The changes, announced 7 December, took effect on 31 January 2024 and expand the activities that visitors with short-term visas can undertake without requiring sponsorship or seeking another form of immigration permission.

Corporate activities

The scope of permitted business activity has been expanded for those employed overseas and entering the U.K. to undertake work for a branch or entity within the same corporate group.

Previous rules permitted individuals to advise and consult, troubleshoot, provide training and share skills and knowledge. However, this was restricted to a specific internal project with U.K. employees of the same corporate group and did not allow for any direct work with clients.

The changes still require the activity to be related to a specific internal project with U.K. employees, but individuals can now work directly with clients provided:

  • the individual’s movement remains in an intra-corporate setting;
  • any client-facing activity is incidental to their employment overseas; and
  • such activities are required for the delivery of a project or service by the U.K. branch of the overseas employer and are not part of a project or service being delivered directly to the U.K. client by the employer overseas.
  • Such work cannot amount to offshoring of a project or service to the overseas employer.

Remote working

The rules now explicitly allow visitors to work remotely whilst in the U.K., as long as this is not the primary purpose of their visit. Working remotely was already permitted. The Visit caseworker guidance (version 13.0) says that visitors can undertake activities relating to their overseas employment remotely, such as responding to emails or answering phone calls.

Flight crew

Between March and October, pilots or cabin crew members can work temporarily in the U.K. under the Civil Aviation Authority approved Wet Lease Agreement, provided they remain employed and paid overseas. Flight crew members were already permitted to do this under a concession outside of the rules.

Scientists, academics and researchers

Scientists and researchers may now take part in formal exchange arrangements with U.K. counterparts. This was previously only expressly permitted for academics.

Scientists, researchers and certain academics can also now conduct research in the U.K. as part of their visit. Previously, scientists and researchers could only conduct independent research, and academics could only conduct research for their own purposes if they were on sabbatical leave from their home institution.

Legal workers

The list of permitted activities for legal professionals has been significantly expanded and appears to be a non-exhaustive list. Previously, legal activities were limited to: an expert witness giving evidence in court; other witnesses attending a court hearing where summoned; and allowing an overseas lawyer to advise a U.K.-based client on specific international litigation or an international transaction. Overseas lawyers can now provide legal services whilst visiting the U.K., including:

  • advice (this is no longer restricted to a U.K. based client);
  • providing advocacy for a court or hearing, or appearing in arbitrations or courts (where qualified or where the jurisdiction allows a short-term call);
  • acting as an arbitrator, mediator or expert witness;
  • conferences and teaching;
  • litigation; and
  • transactional legal services, including drafting contracts.

Whilst overseas lawyers cannot receive payment from a U.K. source (unless the activities fall within the scope of Permitted Paid Engagements), they are permitted in certain circumstances to bill a U.K. client for time spent in the U.K. as per existing provisions under V 4.6(d).

Paid engagements

Individuals invited to the U.K. for a specific paid engagement have been able to visit the U.K. for up to one month for this purpose. These include:

  • highly qualified academics examining students or participating in selection panels;
  • experts giving lectures in their subject area;
  • pilot examiners assessing U.K.-based pilots;
  • qualified lawyers providing advocacy for legal proceedings, where invited by a client;
  • professional artists, entertainers and musicians invited by a U.K.-based creative organisation, agent or broadcaster; and
  • professional sportspersons invited by a U.K. based sports organisation, agent or broadcaster.

Speakers at conferences are now included in the permitted paid engagement (PPE) list, enabling them to receive payment from a U.K. source.

PPE was previously one of four types of visitors. As of January 31, PPE no longer falls under a separate visitor type and now sits within the Standard Visitor category. Those entering for the purpose of PPE will therefore be granted entry as a Standard Visitor, rather than specifically for PPE.

In practice, this should mean that those entering for PPE and other reasons may be issued permission for up to six months, rather than one month, although those undertaking PPE activities shall still need to ensure the relevant requirements are met and evidence held, such as an invitation from a U.K.- based organisation.

The amended provision also requires anyone entering for PPE reasons to complete the PPE within 30 days of entry – the timing of the visit will therefore need to be carefully managed.

If you have a question or would like our team's assistance with any immigration matters please get in touch through our contact form or by phone. We will be happy to provide the latest information and expert advice relevant to your specific requirements.

The brand name Visa Kings Global is used under licence by Visa Success Limited. Visa Success Limited is not a firm of solicitors and is not regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Visa Success Limited does not give financial, legal or tax advice.

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