News & Insights

What are the new rules for temporary business travel?

Imelda Reddington explores the implications of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement for business travel.

On 30 December 2020 the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (the Agreement) was implemented in the UK having been agreed with the EU on 24 December. The Agreement, which governs the UK’s trading relationship with the EU, predominantly covers issues relating to economic and security cooperation between the parties.

However, the Agreement also contains commitments by both the UK and EU on the movement of people for business purposes, including short-term business visitors, business visitors for establishment purposes, intra-corporate transferees, contractual service suppliers and independent professionals.

The parties have also agreed not to impose market access restrictions, such as quotas or market needs tests regarding the total number of visitors that may be allowed entry.

Short-term business visitors

Under the Agreement, short-term business visitors may travel for up to 90 days in any 6-month period, without requiring a work permit or other prior approval. However, such trips are restricted to a certain number of permitted activities, including (among others) attending meetings, consultations and conferences, carrying out marketing and research, participating in training seminars or trade fairs, and engaging in sales or purchase negotiations or other commercial transactions.

Although short-term business visitors do not generally require a work permit, they may be asked questions at the border and so it is advisable that they carry details and documentary evidence of the permitted activity they will be carrying out, dates of travel and accommodation details, how the trip will be funded and confirmation that medical insurance is in place. It is also worth noting that some EU countries may have additional territory-specific requirements or restrictions in place.

Business visitors for establishment purposes

This relates to individuals seeking to establish a business in the other country. Individuals that wish to do so may enter and stay in the territory for a maximum period of 90 days in any 6-month period without a work permit. To qualify, the individual must hold a senior position in a company and be responsible for the setting up of the business.

Intra-corporate transferees

Under this commitment, businesses located in one country may temporarily transfer certain categories of employees, including senior managers, experienced specialists, or paid trainees, to a related business in the other country. Managers and specialists may stay for up to 3 years, whereas trainees can stay for up to 1 year.

There are also various additional criteria to qualify, including a minimum length of service requirement of 1 year for managers and specialists and 6 months for trainees. Trainees also need to have a university degree.

Contractual service suppliers

This category covers people who are employed by a business in one country that has a contract to supply a service to a final consumer established in the other country requiring the employee to be there temporarily. The maximum length of stay for the employee is a cumulative period of 12 months, or for the duration of the contract (whichever is less).

The employee must have at least one years’ service with the sending company immediately prior to their application for entry as well as 3 years relevant professional experience and a university degree (or relevant professional qualification).

Independent professionals

Independent professionals under the Agreement are those who are self-employed and have a contract with a final consumer in the other country.

Subject to further conditions, an independent professional may stay in that country for a cumulative period of 12 months, or for the duration of the contract they have with the final consumer (whichever is less).


While these commitments under the Agreement provide businesses and individuals with a degree of certainty, they represent a significant shift from the previous system of free movement. In addition to the various requirements in relation to these commitments, businesses will need to also check the local rules of the relevant jurisdiction when dealing with temporary business travel.

If you have any questions about the contents of this article or if you need any assistance with the rules on temporary business travel, please contact [email protected] in the immigration team at FSP.