News & Insights

Changes to the Visitor Rules

Reforms to the rules governing business visitors to the UK have been detailed in a recent Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules.

People who come to the UK for up to six months for the purposes of tourism, visiting family or friends, engaging in certain business activities, and/or going on a short course of study are referred to as ‘Visitors’. Whether they first need to apply for a Visitor visa will depend on if they are a ‘Visa national’ – a list of the Visa national countries can be found here.

As mentioned, Visitors can engage in certain general business activities and intra-corporate activities, despite not having a work visa. From 31 January 2024, restrictions on these activities are being relaxed slightly. The new rules will apply to any Visa nationals who apply for their Visitor visa on or after 31 January 2024, and any non-Visa nationals who enter the UK on or after that same date.

Intra-Corporate Activities

Currently, Visitors from overseas companies can engage in a limited selection of intra-corporate activities – they can:

  • advise and consult;
  • trouble-shoot;
  • provide training; and
  • share skills and knowledge,

on a specific internal project with UK employees within the same corporate group. However, there can be no direct contact with clients.

This is set to change – under the new rules, such Visitors will also be able to carry out the above activities with clients, provided that the activities are required for the delivery of a specific project or service by the UK business or branch, rather than a project or service being delivered by the overseas business. All client-facing activity must also be incidental to the Visitor’s employment overseas.

Remote Working

Visitors will be able to work remotely from the UK, but solely on activities relating to their overseas employment, and this must not be the primary purpose of their visit to the UK.

This leaves remote working in a bit of a grey air – Visitors coming to the UK for tourism or visiting family, for example, can do remote work for their overseas company while in the UK, but they cannot come to the UK for the purpose of remote working (for example, to provide services for a client based in the UK – which may alternatively be covered under the Intra-Corporate Activities, if the business has a UK presence).

Research, Science, and Academia

Researchers, scientists, and academics currently cannot come to the UK as a Visitor to carry out research, unless this research is for their own purposes while they are on sabbatical.

From 31 January 2024, they will be able to engage in research on specific projects which directly relate to their overseas employment. They will also be able to undertake independent research without having to be on sabbatical.

Legal Services

As it stands, overseas lawyers who come to the UK as Visitors can only advise UK-based clients on specific international litigation or international transactions.

Under the new rules, they will be able to engage in a whole host of other activities, including providing legal advice more generally, advocacy, and transactional legal services. These activities also do not have to be provided to UK-based clients only.

Permitted Paid Engagements

At the moment, there is a separate ‘Permitted Paid Engagement’ route, which allows experts and certain professionals in their field to visit the UK and attend a particular event or engagement, for which they will be paid, for up to a month.

From 31 January 2024, these Permitted Paid Engagements are being rolled into the Visitor route. The engagement must be arranged before the Visitor travels to the UK and the Visitor must have evidence of their formal invitation. The engagement must also be completed within thirty days of the Visitor’s entry into the UK, even if the Visitor then stays for a full six months.

The new rules also allow giving speeches and speaking at a one-off talk or series of talks, where the Visitor has been invited to a conference or other event for this purpose. Previously, this was not permitted for any profit-making events.

While the new rules do afford Visitors some increased flexibility when it comes to engaging in business activities during visits to the UK, they do not give them carte blanche to provide services to clients in the UK or to do work for a UK company. If you are planning to do work for a UK company or to provide services within the UK, then you will usually need to obtain a work visa (or a visa which allows for working in the UK, such as a family visa).

If you would like advice on the new scope of the Visitor rules or working in the UK, please contact Callum De Freitas at [email protected].