Generally, business visitors are those who live and work abroad and visit the UK for a purpose related to their business, employment or professional activity, provided they do not receive any salary from a UK source and are not involved in selling goods or services direct to members of the public.
Key Points to Remember for Business Visitors
- If you plan to come to the UK for certain business purposes, you will need to apply for a business visit visa, not a general visit visa. This is because certain activities allowed for by the business visit visa are prohibited if you hold a general visit visa.
- To qualify for a business visit visa, you must intend to come to the UK for less than six months, as with most visit visa categories. In some cases, secondment arrangements can continue legitimately for longer than six months. If so, a multiple entry visa would normally issued to allow for repeated visits.
- You have to meet all the usual requirements of the general visit visa, but you will also be allowed to undertake additional business related activities, provided they appear on the list of “permitted activities” at Immigration Rule 46(iii)(a).
Who qualifies as a business visitor?
- Among other, business visitors include secondees from overseas companies, where a UK company provides goods or services to the overseas company on a contractual basis and there is no corporate relationship between the two companies. Overseas companies may send their representatives as business visitors to the UK in order to clarify the buyer’s specifications or to facilitate delivery of the contract. In certain circumstances, secondees may be sent to the UK company for training.
- Board-level Directors may visit the UK as business visitors to attend board meetings in the UK provided they are not employed by a UK company. They are allowed to receive a fee for attending the meeting, but they should not receive any salary in the UK.
- Other business visitors may include advisors, consultants, trainers and trouble-shooters employed by an overseas company who are coming to provide consultancy services to the company’s UK branch. Importantly, these visitors cannot be directly involved in producing goods or services on behalf of the UK branch. It is, therefore, advisable to seek legal assistance in each specific case, as in some circumstances Tier 2 intra-company transfer may be the appropriate type of visa.
What am I allowed to do if I am in the UK on a Business Visit Visa?
- You can go to meetings, conferences or interviews, if these were arranged before you came to the UK.
- If you work for an overseas company which has a contract with a UK company, and the two companies are not otherwise related, you can come to the UK to provide goods or services to the UK company, but you must be employed by the overseas company only during the visit. (This includes your payment arrangements).
- If you are a Director and you want to attend a Board Meeting, the Rules permit this, but again you must not be paid by the company in the UK.
- You could attend a Trade Fair, but you would not be allowed to sell direct to the public.
- If you wanted to take part in negotiations, or sign contracts or trade agreements, you could do this. You could also undertake fact-finding, or go on site visits.
- There are also arrangements for couriers, drivers and interpreters to come to the UK under the Business Visitor rules, under certain conditions as stated in Immigration Rule 46(iii)(a).
- If you work for an overseas company which has a contract with a UK company, perhaps to service or install machinery, you would be allowed to travel to the UK to carry out these tasks under the business visitor rules.
- Employees of overseas media companies, eg cameramen, journalists or other associated technical staff are allowed to come to the UK under a business visit visa, for example if they were needed to take part in a location shoot. (This only applies if you are employed by the overseas company).
- There are other conditions which permit Academics and Visiting Professors to undertake limited duties in the UK, provided that they remain employed overseas only.
- Religious workers may be able to come to the UK under a business visit visa to preach or undertake pastoral work if they remain employed and based overseas.
- Advisers, consultants and trainers can come to the UK under the business visitor rules if they work for an overseas company which has a UK branch, and their services are required here. They are not allowed to work directly with their company’s clients here, and they must continue to be employed and paid by the overseas company only.
The above is a simplified version of the relevant business visit visa rules, and in practice assessing whether certain planned activities are permitted can be a complex issue.
For this reason, we recommend that you seek advice before making a visit visa application, to be sure that you are applying for the right type of visit visa, and that the activities you want to pursue are not prohibited by the Rules.
Please contact us at Kadmos Consultants and we shall be pleased to help you.