Short-term Visitor Rules for overseas workers in the UK


The aim of this note is to provide an update on our understanding of some of the rules that came into effect from 1 January 2021. As we have mentioned in previous notes , the rules place significant restrictions on the ability of EU citizens (including overseas directors of UK companies) to work in the UK.

In reading this note it’s important to understand two things: 1) the rules are quite new and have not yet been fully tested by the courts; and 2) we are accountants, not lawyers. On this second point, immigration law is a difficult, complex and specialist area. So, please take advice on your specific situation before proceeding. What follows is our understanding of the rules and it should certainly not be acted on without taking specialist advice.

Reminder of the context

The UK left the EU on 31st January 2020. In the first year (up to 31 December 2020) there was a transition period and Europeans were able to work in the UK. This ended on 1st January 2021. From 1st January 2021 onward it has became much harder for Europeans to work in the UK. The new immigration rules need to be followed.

The new immigration rules

From 1st January 2021 it became much harder for Europeans to work in the UK. The immigration system is complex, but in essence there are three main ways that a European can now work in the UK:

This purpose of this note is to talk a bit more about this last point: the Short-term Visitors Rules.

The Short-term Visitor rules

The main points about the Short-term Visitor Rules are that:

  • The visitor doesn’t need to apply for a visa before coming to the UK
  • Instead, the visitor presents documents at the point of entry that demonstrate that he is following the rules
  • The rules allow the visitor to perform a limited number of ‘permitted activities’ provided that he is not in the UK for more than 6 months AND he is not paid by a UK employer.

Pre-entry requirements

Under the Short-term Visitor Rules, Europeans don’t need authorisation before they enter the UK. Instead, they can ask for ‘leave to enter’ at entry. In this case, they should present documents that prove that they meet the conditions of the Short-term Visitor Rules. For example, they should have documents that show:

  • the commercial reason for the visit
  • that they will leave at end of visit
  • the duration of the visit

Permitted activities

Only activities that are specifically permitted by the rules can be performed in the UK. These rules can be found here:
I have copied the rules that are most likely to apply to our clients below:

General Business Activities

These rules are particularly useful to overseas directors of UK companies. Under these rules a visitor may:

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

Intra-corporate Activities

These rules are useful for secondments of staff from the overseas company to the UK company. Under these rules an employee of an overseas based company may:

  1. advise and consult; and
  2. trouble-shoot; and
  3. provide training; and
  4. share skills and knowledge;

on a specific internal project with UK employees of the same corporate group, provided no work is carried out directly with clients.

Manufacture and supply of goods to the UK

These rules are useful for overseas manufacturers and can be used to a limited extent for construction businesses. Under these rules an employee of a foreign manufacturer or supplier may install, dismantle, repair, service or advise on equipment, computer software or hardware, where the manufacturer or supplier has a contract of purchase or supply or lease with a UK company or organisation.

Other conditions

As well as meeting all of the conditions above the employee

  • should have sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs (including return)
  • should not receive employment from UK entity for any activity.
  • must not remain in the UK for more than 6 months.
  • satisfy requirements of identity (ie have a passport)
  • satisfy the requirements of fitness (ie not have a criminal record)
  • should normally live and work abroad (not in the UK).

On this last point, this means that the person should not have travelled frequently enough to the UK to imply that he might be based in the UK

Concluding comments

We don’t provide advice on immigration matters ourselves. But we can introduce you to one of our legal partners that can help you.

Overview The aim of this note is to provide an update o […]

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