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Business visitors

Visa requirements In what circumstances is a visa required for business visitors?

All nationals of the countries mentioned in Appendix 2 of the Immigration Rules are classed as visa nationals for immigration purposes. They must apply for a visa in advance of their arrival to the United Kingdom. Visas must be applied for overseas at a designated British visa issuing post, such as a British embassy. Non-visa nationals are not required to apply for a visa in advance if they seek entry as a visitor. They are permitted to seek entry on arrival at the UK border. 

Restrictions What restrictions are imposed on business visitors in terms of the work that they may undertake and their period of stay in your jurisdiction?

Appendix 5 of Immigration Rules

Visa nationals and non-visa nationals are permitted to stay in the United Kingdom for up to six months. Visitors undertaking business activities are permitted to:

  • attend meetings, conferences, seminars and interviews;
  • give a one-off or short series of talks and speeches, provided these are not organised as commercial events and will not make a profit for the organiser;
  • negotiate and sign deals and contracts;
  • attend trade fairs, for promotional work only, provided that the visitor is not directly selling;
  • carry out site visits and inspections;
  • gather information for their employment overseas; and
  • be briefed on the requirements of a UK-based customer, provided that any work for the customer is done outside the United Kingdom.

However, visitors are not permitted to work in the United Kingdom or receive any payment. The exception to this general rule is if the migrant is engaged in a permitted paid engagement. The permitted engagements are listed in Appendix 5 of the Immigration Rules. The migrant’s proposed engagements must also:

  • be arranged before the applicant travels to the United Kingdom;
  • be declared as part of the application for a visitor visa or leave to enter;
  • be evidenced by a formal invitation, as required by Appendix 4; and
  • relate to the applicant’s area of expertise and occupation overseas.

Application and entry How are business visitor visas obtained and what is the typical turnaround time?

Visitor visas for visa nationals are applied for overseas at a designated British overseas post, which may include a British embassy. Migrants are required to complete an online form on the Visa4UK website. Standard processing times vary in each country; however, the average processing time takes up to 15 working days. Migrants must attend a biometric appointment where they are required to provide fingerprints and undergo an iris scan.

If granted, visas will be issued by way of a vignette sticker in the migrant’s current passport.

Non-visa nationals may seek entry on arrival at the UK border.

Are any visa waiver or fast-track entry programmes available?

Migrants are eligible to join the Registered Traveller Scheme, which permits faster entry at the UK border using ePassport gates or the UK/EU entry lane. Initial registration costs £70, and a £50 yearly renewal fee applies. Only a limited number of nationalities are permitted to use the scheme. 

Short-term training What rules and procedures apply for visitors seeking to undertake short-term training in your jurisdiction?

A visitor who works for an overseas company may receive training from the UK-based company if it is required for the visitor’s overseas employment and is not available in his or her home country. Short training sessions are also permitted by trainers who are contracted to deliver global training. 

Transit In what circumstances is a transit visa required to pass through your jurisdiction? How is it obtained?

Visa nationals must obtain a transit visa in advance of their travel to the United Kingdom. They are required to apply overseas at a designated post, such as a British embassy. The application will be made on the Visa4Uk website.

An exemption applies and visa nationals meeting additional criteria may be permitted to seek leave to enter at the UK border. The visitor must:

  • have arrived by air and be departing by air;
  • be genuinely in transit to another country, meaning that the purpose of his or her visit is to transit through the United Kingdom and that the applicant is taking a reasonable transit route;
  • not access public funds or medical treatment, work or study in the United Kingdom;
  • genuinely intend to leave the United Kingdom before 11:59pm on the day following arrival;
  • have a confirmed booking on a flight departing the United Kingdom before 11:59pm on the day following arrival; and
  • be assured entry to his or her country of destination and any other countries that he or she is transiting through.

The visitor must also:

  • be travelling to or from (or on part of a reasonable journey to or from) Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the United States and have a valid visa for that country;
  • be travelling from (or on part of a reasonable journey from) Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the United States less than six months since his or her last entry into that country with a valid entry visa;
  • hold a valid permanent residence permit issued by:
    • Australia;
    • Canada (issued after June 28 2002); or
    • New Zealand;
  • hold a valid US I-551 permanent resident card, issued on or after April 21 1998;
  • hold a valid US I-551 temporary immigrant visa (a wet-ink stamp version will not be accepted);
  • hold an expired US I-551 permanent resident card issued on or after April 21 1998, provided that it is accompanied by a valid I-797 letter authorising an extension of the period of permanent residency;
  • hold a valid standalone US immigration Form 155A/155B attached to a sealed brown envelope;
  • hold a valid common format residence permit issued by a European Economic Area (EEA) state (pursuant to EU Regulation 1030/2002) or Switzerland;
  • hold a valid uniform format Category D visa for entry to a state in the EEA or Switzerland;
  • be travelling on to the Republic of Ireland and have a valid Irish biometric visa; or
  • be travelling from the Republic of Ireland less than three months since the applicant was last given permission to land or be in the republic by the Irish authorities with a valid Irish biometric visa.

Non-visa nationals are permitted to seek leave to enter for transit purposes at the UK border. 

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