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Key changes to the business visitor rules

The good news is that there is some added flexibility for those coming to the UK as business visitors from 31st January 2024.   

Remote working

In particular, overseas nationals visiting the UK will be able to work remotely in the UK for their overseas employer, provided this is not the main reason for their visit to the UK. This means that visitors may undertake activities relating to their employment overseas remotely whilst they are in the UK, such as responding to emails, answering phone calls or participating in remote meetings. However, immigration caseworkers and officials may still scrutinise the length of the visit and the reason for visiting the UK. Particular attention is likely to be given to those coming to the UK as visitors for more than one month. 

The guidance on business visitors has been updated and caseworkers must consider the proposed length of the visitor's stay. Importantly, the guidance expressly states visitors are likely to stay for less than one month whilst undertaking remote work as a secondary activity because they will be in employment overseas. If they request longer, caseworkers must look carefully at what they will be doing in the UK and be content that their primary purpose is not remote working. Activities lasting more than 90 days are not an automatic ground for refusal but may lead to questions about the nature of their remote work.

Where a visitor is coming to the UK to undertake permitted business activities, such as attending meetings or conferences, they may also work remotely as part of their overseas employment, however it's important to ensure that this does not amount to the applicant being seconded to a UK company or organisation, or to the UK branch of their overseas employer. If that's the case they will need to apply under a different immigration route which enables them to work in the UK.  

Intra company transfer activities 

Secondly, under the permitted intra company activities, employees of an overseas based company will now be able to work directly with UK based clients in certain, limited circumstances to undertake the following activities: 

  • Advising and consulting;
  • Troubleshooting;
  • Providing training; and
  • Sharing skills and knowledge.

This is provided the work is incidental to the individual’s overseas employment and is part of a project/service being delivered by the UK company or branch, but it cannot amount to offshoring the project/service to the overseas company.

The updated guidance makes it clear that the intra-corporate activities should be of a short duration, linked to a specific project, and where the visitor will be directly working with or for clients, this should not be the primary purpose of their visit to the UK.

When assessing whether an individual’s primary purpose is to work with or for clients the Home Office will consider the role of the UK branch or company of the corporate group. If the individual is travelling to the UK to support their UK based colleagues on a project being led from the UK branch or company, and this naturally leads to the individual working directly with clients, this is likely to be acceptable, provided the other business visitor requirements are met. However, if the individual is travelling to the UK to undertake activities directly with clients, independently of a project led from the UK branch or company, then this is not usually permitted, as the client facing work will not be incidental to the individual’s employment overseas.

Overseas legal professionals

Overseas legal professionals are now permitted to come to the UK as business visitors to undertake a significantly wider range of legal services, including:

  • Advice;
  • Appearing in arbitrations;
  • Acting as an arbitrator/mediator;
  • Acting as an expert witness;
  • Appearing in court in jurisdictions which allow short-term call or where qualified in that jurisdiction;
  • Conferences, teaching;
  • Providing advocacy for a court or tribunal hearing;
  • Litigation; and
  • Transactional legal services, including drafting contracts.

Helpfully, the requirement for the services to be for a UK-based client has been dropped.