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We take a look at the Visitor Visa as a post-Brexit option for bringing non-UK based workers into the country for a short period.

With the Brexit transition period ending on 31 December 2020, we have seen an increase in questions arising around the options for bringing non-UK based workers into the country for a short period without Sponsorship and/or Temporary Worker Visas.

This has largely been requested by those clients who are part of a multi-national group based in the EU where they want workers to come in for a short period but do not wish to go through formal Visa applications. It was once all so simple…

Those clients with non-EU group companies will often already have awareness of the rights of individuals to conduct some limited work whilst on a Visitor Visa (which for many is granted on entry to the UK) but for those clients who are part of a group comprising mainly EU companies, these rights are likely to become very important.

In short, if the worker does not have a right to work in the UK then there is some limited work they can do on a Visitor Visa (which can last up to six months). These activities are known as ‘permitted activities’.

The permitted activities which will be of most interest in the circumstances we are discussing are the permissions around General Business Activities and Intra-Corporate Activities.

Under the Visitor Visa rules, a visitor, whilst conducting General Business Activities, may:

  1. Attend meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews.
  2. Give a one-off or a short series of talks and speeches, provided these are not organised as commercial events and will not make a profit for the organiser.
  3. Negotiate and sign deals and contracts.
  4. Attend trade fairs, for promotional work only, provided the visitor is not directly selling.
  5. Carry out site visits and inspections.
  6. Gather information for their employment overseas.
  7. Be briefed on the requirements of a UK based customer, provided any work for the customer is done outside of the UK.

In relation to Intra-Corporate Activities, an employee of an overseas-based company may:

  1. Advise and consult.
  2. Provide training,
  3. Share skills and knowledge.

The above four options are to be on a specific internal project with UK employees of the same corporate group, provided no work is carried out directly with the clients.

There is also permission for an internal auditor to carry out regulatory or financial audits at a UK branch of the same group of companies as the visitor’s employer overseas.

Whilst the above ‘permissions’ above can seem a little vague and wide-ranging, the following quote from the Immigration Rules provides some structure to what would be deemed acceptable and it should always be borne in mind.

"Permitted activities must not amount to the visitor undertaking employment, or work which amounts to them filling a role or providing short-term cover for a role within a UK based organisation and where the visitor is already paid and employed outside of the UK they must remain so."

Whilst these permissions are helpful and a viable option, those who seek to abuse them however will need to be wary of the potential criminal and civil sanctions related to illegal working.

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