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Post Brexit business travel to the EU - can you go?

Contained within the TCA is a defined list of short-term business visitor activities which may be performed. Check prior to travelling.

The Trade and Co-operation Agreement (“TCA”) was agreed between the UK and EU on 24 December 2020 and is incorporated into UK law by virtue of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 (“EURA”).

Contained within the TCA is a defined list of short-term business visitor activities which may be performed within the UK and EU. As with the other areas, some EU member states have retained an element of control over certain activities, requiring prior authorisation or imposing further restrictions. What is clear is that an assumption that business activities in one-member state can automatically be performed in another is incorrect. Businesses must pay due care and attention when sending business travellers into the EU.

The activity list is nonetheless welcome to many businesses as it provides some clarity on the permissible activities for business visitors, once international travel resumes post-Covid.

  • UK nationals can visit the EU for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days in total in any 180-day period. This can be a single visit or a number of visits. Any stays longer than this will require a visa issued by the relevant member state. For frequent business travellers this will involve further administration to ensure this 90-day limit is not breached.
  • Travelling to the EU will not be as streamlined as before, with UK nationals now unable to use the EU lanes at international terminals. Passports must also have at least six months’ validity (and be less than 10 years old) to travel.
  • Travel to the Republic of Ireland remains unaffected and continues as normal under the Common Travel Agreement. There is no time restriction for UK nationals visiting Ireland.

What can I do as a business visitor in the EU?

It is important to note that each EU member state has its own immigration rules and the definition of a ‘business trip’ will differ from state to state.

In France, business activity includes attending conferences/seminars, business development meetings and limited meetings with clients/colleagues. In Italy, business trips can include meetings, networking opportunities, negotiating a deal/contract and attending industry events.

Productive work in the EU, including periods of remote working, generally requires a work permit for all non-EU nationals. Checking emails and taking urgent calls whilst in the EU on a holiday or business trip is generally acceptable. While there are similarities with business traveller rules, it is advisable to check the local guidance ahead of travel.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

EHICs issued before 31 December 2020 will continue to be valid until they expire in all EU member states. Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland will no longer, following the end of the transition period, recognise the EHIC. The UK has however replaced the EHIC with a new UK Global Health Insurance Card (“GHIC”) which operates in the same way as the EHIC. All EU member states will recognize the GHIC which will entitle the holder to state provided medical treatment in the EU country they have travelled to, including emergency or necessary medical care, at the same cost that is charged to residents of the host country. However, the GHIC is not travel insurance and the UK Government’s advice is to purchase travel insurance with sufficient health coverage before travel – especially for those with pre-existing health conditions. 

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