What is the International Agreement route?
Main requirements for sponsoring contractual service suppliers
How long can a contractual service supplier stay?
What scenarios and activities come within the contractual service provider provisions?
Case study


The latest statement of changes in immigration rules rebrands the T5 International Agreement route as the International Agreement route from nine o'clock in the morning on 11 October 2021. This article looks at how the route can be used to bring contractual service suppliers to the United Kingdom, and which business scenarios may benefit from it.

What is the International Agreement route?

The International Agreement route is a sponsored route, broadly for individuals whose work is included under international law or an international agreement the UK is a signatory to.

There are specific provisions for individuals who need to provide services in the UK to fulfil a contract between a UK business (the sponsor) and an overseas business with no UK presence. These people are referred to as "contractual service suppliers". There are also provisions for independent professionals, but these are rarely used in practice.

Main requirements for sponsoring contractual service suppliers

In all cases, the service supplier's business must be established in the country or territory that is a signatory to the trade agreement they are supplying services under, and the sponsor business must be the end consumer of the services.

The most commonly relied on agreements are as follows:

  • the World Trade Organization General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS);
  • the UK-European Union Trade and Cooperation Agreement (UK-EU agreement); and
  • the UK-Switzerland Temporary Agreement on Services Mobility (UK-Switzerland agreement).

It is important to correctly identify which agreement is being relied on, because some of the criteria are different for each agreement.

The contractual service supplier must normally be a national of the country or territory in which the supplying business is established. However, if the UK-Switzerland agreement applies, or GATS where the supplying business is established in Armenia, Australia, Canada, New Zealand or Switzerland, they may be a permanent resident. The person providing the services must also have a degree or technical qualification (some industry-specific exemptions may be applicable), have been employed by the contractual service supplier for at least 12 months and have at least three years' relevant professional experience.

There is no English-language requirement to be met for this route.

The UK-based company in receipt of the eligible services must hold a sponsor licence with the International Agreement route activated. If they do not hold a sponsor licence or do not have the route activated, they will need to make an application to the Home Office. The sponsor must also seek prior approval from the Home Office before assigning certificates of sponsorship under this route by sending a copy of the contract to the Home Office for approval and certifying that the contract was awarded through a bona fide bid process.

How long can a contractual service supplier stay?

The time a person can spend in the UK as a contractual service supplier under the International Agreement route is shown below.

Agreement

Time allowed (shortest time will apply)

GATS

Six months in any 12-month period, or length of certificate of sponsorship plus 14 days before and after

UK-EU

12 months at a time, or length of certificate of sponsorship plus 14 days before and after

UK-Switzerland

12 months in any 24-month period, or length of certificate of sponsorship plus 14 days before and after

What scenarios and activities come within the contractual service provider provisions?

The International Agreement route can be particularly useful for periodic contracts to maintain specialist equipment in the United Kingdom, or other recurring contracts where the proposed activities in the UK are not permitted under the immigration rules for visitors.

UK businesses able to benefit from the International Agreement route include the automotive manufacturing industry, other manufacturing businesses using production lines, as well as businesses in the oil, gas and energy-generation sectors.

The relevant international agreements specify which activities they cover. The full activities covered by the GATS, UK-EU and UK-Switzerland agreements are shown below.

Sector

GATS

UK-EU

UK-Switzerland

Accounting services

X

X

X

Advertising services

X

X

X

Auditing services

X

Computer-related services

X

X

Engineering and integrated engineering services

X

X

X

Environmental services

X

X

Insurance and insurance-related advisory and consultancy services

X

X

Legal advisory services

X

X

X

Maintenance and repair of aircraft and aircraft parts

X

X

Maintenance and repair of metal products, non-office machinery, non- transport and non- office equipment and of personal and household goods

X

X

Maintenance and repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles, snowmobiles and road transport equipment

X

X

Maintenance and repair of rail transport equipment

X

X

Maintenance and repair of vessels

X

X

Management consulting services and services related to management consulting

X

X

X

Manufacturing advisory and consulting services

X

X

Market research and opinion polling

X

X

Mining advisory and consulting services

X

X

Other financial services advisory and consulting services

X

X

Postal and courier advisory and consultancy services

X

X

Related scientific and technical consulting

X

X

Research and development services

X

X

Site investigation services

X

X

X

Taxation advisory services

X

X

X

Technical testing and analysis

X

X

X

Telecommunications advisory and consultancy services

X

X

Tourist guide services

X

X

Translation services

X

Translation and interpretation services

X

X

Transport advisory and consulting services

X

X

Travel agencies and tour operator services

X

X

Urban planning and landscape services

X

X

X

Case study

Following a tender process, a UK-based manufacturing business entered into a contract with an Italian company for the provision of "integrated engineering services" in the United Kingdom. The Italian company has no commercial presence in the United Kingdom and did not manufacture, supply or lease the machinery it will be installing and servicing and as such cannot not send its employees to the United Kingdom as visitors. Before 31 December 2021, they utilised "freedom of movement" to provide services under contract in the United Kingdom, which is no longer applicable. The UK company holds a sponsor licence covering the International Agreement route and has received approval from the Home Office to utilise the International Agreement route. The UK company may now sponsor the eligible Italian employees so they may apply for entry clearance to enter the United Kingdom and provide the services under contract.

For further information on this topic please contact Andrew Osborne, Supinder Singh Sian or Parvin Iman at Lewis Silkin by telephone (+44 20 7074 8000‚Äč) or email ([email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]). The Lewis Silkin website can be accessed at www.lewissilkin.com.