UK Visitor Rules: Enhancing Business Flexibility

In a new Statement of Changes, the Government have unveiled modifications to the Immigration Rules concerning visitors with effect from 31 January 2024.  In summary, these new amendments have created flexibility, expanding the activities that visitors can undertake without sponsorship or other form of immigration permission.  Optimistically, we anticipate further revisions in the near future as these recent amendments are the first in an expected series of measures to offer greater flexibility to short-term mobility. 

Intra-Corporate Activities:

The range of permitted business activities has been widened for individuals employed overseas who enter the UK to carry out work for a branch or entity within the same corporate group. Previously, individuals were limited to advising, consulting, troubleshooting, providing training, and sharing skills and knowledge within a specific internal project with UK employees of the same corporate group.

The recent changes allow individuals to work directly with clients under certain conditions.  It remains a requirement that the activity is related to a specific internal project with UK employees.  The new changes stipulate that:

  • The individual’s movement remains in an intra-corporate setting;
  • Any client-facing activity is incidental to their employment overseas; and
  • Such activities are required for the delivery of a project or service by the UK branch of the overseas employer, and are not part of a project or service being delivered directly to the UK client by the employer overseas.

However, such work cannot amount to the offshoring of a project or service to the overseas employer. 

Remote Working:

The rules now explicitly state that visitors can work remotely while in the UK, provided it is not the primary purpose of their visit. Although remote working was already permitted, this provision offers clarity on the scope of permissible activities.

Flight Crew:

Aligning with previous concession outside of the rules, the new Statement of Changes confirms that pilots or cabin crew members can now work temporarily in the UK between March and October under the Civil Aviation Authority approved Wet Lease Agreement, provided you remain employed and paid overseas.

Scientists, Academics, and Researchers:

Scientists and researchers are now permitted to engage in formal exchange arrangements with UK counterparts, a privilege previously reserved only for academics.

Additionally, scientists, researchers, and certain academics can conduct research in the UK as part of their visit, expanding opportunities beyond the previous limited scope of independent research or sabbatical leave.  However, academics in the UK for 12 months will continue to face restrictions on research work. 

Legal Professionals:

The new rules have expanded the list of permitted activities for legal professionals and is now non-exhaustive.

Overseas lawyers can now provide various legal services while visiting the UK, including advice (no longer restricted to a UK based client); providing advocacy; acting as an arbitrator; conferences and teaching; litigation, and transactional legal services. Although receiving payment from a UK source is generally prohibited, certain billing arrangements are permitted.

Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE):

Individuals invited to the UK for specific paid engagements, including highly qualified academics; lecturers giving lectures in their subject area; pilot examiners; qualified lawyers; professional artists, entertainers and musicians; and professional sportspersons, can now visit the UK for up to one month for this purpose. 

A further awaited change is that speakers at conferences are now included in the PPE list, which enables them to receive payment from a UK source.

PPE also no longer falls under a separate visitor type and instead sits within the Standard Visitor category.  Therefore, individuals entering the UK for the purpose of PPE will now be granted entry as a Standard Visitor. 

This change means that those entering for PPE and other reasons may be issued permission for up to six months, rather than one month.  There is a further caveat that anyone entering for PPE reasons are required to complete the PPE within 30 days of entry. 

What Does this Really Mean for Visitors?

These recent changes are only a small step, but suggest a shift towards a more flexible and pragmatic approach for individuals visiting the UK undertaking work-related activities. 

Amidst tightening measures in other areas of the Immigration Rules, the Visitor route, with ongoing revisions, offers a glimmer of optimism for those conducting short-term business in the UK.

For further information, contact us to speak to a member of our Immigration Team.

Usof Shah
Senior Solicitor, Immigration
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This reflects the law and market position at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought in relation to a specific matter.

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