As reported in our February update, the number of visitor routes is being consolidated from fifteen to four as of 24 April.

As a result of the overhaul the previous category of Business Visitor will be subsumed within the standard Visitor category. The main benefit of this change is that visitors will now be able to carry out a wider range of permitted activities which were previously restricted by category.

In this article we highlight the main business activities visitors to the UK can and can’t do and set out whether or not they can be paid.

What can't they do?

  • Take employment or work for an organisation/business in the UK;
  • Establish/run a business in self-employed capacity;
  • Do a work placement or internship;
  • Provide goods and services or sell directly to the public.

Businesses looking for someone to fill a role in the UK even short term should consider alternative options to the Visitor route. For example Tier 2 for skilled workers filling a vacancy or Tier 5 for temporary workers who will be an addition to staffing levels.

What can they do?

Below is a summary of some of the activities that can be undertaken. Please note that additional requirements may need to be met before a visitor carries out the relevant activity. Please see Appendix 3 for full details.

  • General business activity. For example attend meetings/conferences/trade fairs; negotiate deals; gather information for employment overseas or on requirements of UK based customer; carry out site visits;
  • Intra-company business activity. For example advise and consult; share skills/knowledge; train; carry out internal auditing regulatory or financial;
  • If employees of overseas companies/organisations - train in work practices/techniques where training is not available in their home country;
  • If overseas based trainer – deliver training to employees of UK based company in certain circumstances;
  • Sector specific business activity. For example legal – if an overseas lawyer, advise UK based client on specific international litigation/transaction;

Can they be paid?

The general rule is no, bar the following main exceptions:

  • reasonable travel and subsistence expenses,
  • fees for directors attending board-level meetings;
  • where the visitor’s overseas employer is contracted to provide services to a UK company, it is possible to bill the UK client for the visitor’s time in the UK provided certain requirements are met;
  • if for administrative reasons, multi-national companies handle payment of their employees’ salaries from the UK; or
  • where the visitor is in the UK under the Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE) category, see Appendix 4 for a list of the different PPE categories.

Transitional arrangements

Some visitors to the UK already hold multiple entry visit visas under the previous business/tourist categories valid for 2, 5, and 10 years. We asked the UKVI policy team if they will be able to continue relying on their visas following 24 April. We received confirmation that visitors who already hold a long-term visit visa in one of the previous categories will be treated as visitors (standard) after 24 April and can use that visa to do permitted activities as set out under the new rules.

We await publication of the guidance which will give more details on the permitted and prohibited activities.