Accommodating business visitors and ensuring compliance
10 July 2017 #Immigration
A few years ago, the UK’s rules for visitors were revamped and saw changes which simplified the lives of many people who are frequent visitors to the UK for leisure and business. Prior to April 2015, visitor rules were restrictive and it was commonplace for bona fide business visitors to be inadvertently in breach of the immigration rules. The current visit visa system allows business people to carry out a wider range of activities under broader categories.
We are often asked to prepare visit visa applications for business visitors wishing to enter the UK to attend meetings or gather information for their employment overseas. On many occasions, we find employees of overseas companies wish to visit the UK to share their skills and knowledge when working on internal projects with UK employees of the same corporate group.
On all these occasions, the burden is on the visitor to demonstrate that they are a genuine visitor coming to the UK to carry out permitted activities. The visitor must not intend to live in the UK for extended periods of time through frequent or successive visits. A Standard visit visa (or entry if non-visa national) is granted for 6 months but if you are planning on carrying out business activities over a longer period of time, you can apply for a 2, 5 or 10 year visa but bear in mind that you can only stay in the UK for a maximum of 6 months on each visit.
So, what is a permitted activity; are you restricted to coming to the UK for one purpose or can you visit and carry out multiple business activities? This is an all too common question. The visitor should always be able to explain the main purpose of their visit but once they are in the UK, they can carry out multiple activities – just as long as they are permitted.
Among some of the permitted activities are:
- Attending meetings
- Attending conferences and seminars (these shouldn’t last more than a few weeks otherwise the activity may be considered as studying)
- Negotiating and signing deals and contracts (this should not amount to directly selling goods/services to the public as this is prohibited by the rules); and
- Gathering information for their employment overseas.
Employees of overseas companies which also have a presence in the UK, can visit to carry out ‘intra corporate activities’. However, the employee (and UK business) must ensure that the activity is of short duration, linked to a specific project and the visitor will not be directly working with or for clients.
The UK company must be able to demonstrate, if necessary that:
- the visitor was carrying out permitted activity on their business premises;
- the overseas company was not sending the visitor to undertake work or fill a role; and
- the company was not circumventing the points-based system employment routes.
We recommend that businesses accommodating visitors, should have a business visitor policy in place so the visitor (and staff) are aware of what they can and cannot do. If visited by UKVI compliance officers, businesses must be able to demonstrate the visitor was carrying out a permitted activity on their premises.
Our business immigration lawyers are well versed in the immigration rules and often work with businesses to draft policies ensuring they remain compliant at all times.
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