Entry to the UK as a Business Visitor
As a business visitor, an individual may transact business directly linked to his or her employment abroad. This must not however amount to productive work or otherwise constitute employment (even if this is unpaid) for which a work permit would be required. The individual should continue to receive their salary from abroad although he or she may receive reasonable expenses from the UK company to cover travel and subsistence.
As a visitor, the absolute maximum time period allowed is six months and although there is no limit to the number of visits that can technically be made, an individual would normally be expected to spend no more than six months in any twelve month period in the UK. As a work permit application will shortly be lodged for this individual, it would be advisable to keep any trips to the UK to a minimum.
To qualify as a business visitor, an individual must be able to show at the port of entry that:
- he is seeking entry as a visitor for no more than six months;
- he intends to leave the UK on completion of his visit (I would recommend that he carries a return ticket);
- he has sufficient funds to maintain and accommodate himself without working or without recourse to public funds (I would recommend that he carries travellers cheques);
- he normally lives and works abroad and that he has no intention of transferring his base to the UK; and
- he does not intend to take employment, produce goods, or provide services in the UK.
It is at the discretion of the Immigration Officer at port of entry as to whether and for how long an individual may gain entry to the UK as a business visitor.
Although a business visitor cannot come to the UK and do any ‘productive work’ or provide services direct to clients, they may come to the UK to undertake ‘non-productive work’. The distinction between productive/non-productive work is a grey area and has no set definition.
However, under the business visitor category, certain categories have been deemed ‘non-productive’ and these include:
- attendance at meetings and trade fairs;
- negotiation and completion of contracts with UK businesses;
- attendance at conferences and seminars as an ordinary participant;
- undertaking fact finding missions, checking detail or examining goods;
- receiving training in techniques and working practices employed in the UK (provided that the training the individual receives is confined to observation, familiarisation and classroom instruction only);
- entering the UK as a representative of a computer software company, to install their product made overseas or to debug or enhance the product;
- entering as the representative of a foreign machine manufacturer, to erect and install machinery, which is too large to be delivered in one piece as part of the contract of purchase of supply;
- coming as a guest speaker at a conference or seminar, where it is either a single or occasional event or event not being part of a commercial venture;
- coming to run a conference or seminar of up to five days duration (provided it is a single or occasional event which involves a specialist subject attracting a wide audience including participants from outside the UK);
- entering as an expert to brief UK businessmen about overseas, legal and administrative requirements they need to meet as exporters; or
- to enter the UK as an advisor, consultant, trainer or troubleshooter. This is provided that the individual is employed abroad, either directly or under contract, by the same company (or group of companies) to which the client firm belongs. It should be noted that the involvement of an advisor/trainer must not extend to actual project management. The training provided should be for specific, one off purposes. It should not go beyond classroom instruction and should not otherwise be readily available in the UK.
The essential aspect of whether an individual is a ‘business visitor’ is not for how long he proposes to be in the UK, but what he actually does once he is in the UK.
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DISCLAIMER: The information on this brief guide is correct to the best of our knowledge and belief. However, it is written as a general guide only and it is strongly recommended that specific advice is sought before action is taken.