What can a business visitor do in the UK?

A business visitor is a visitor who comes to the UK for a period of up to 6 months to carry out permitted business-related activities. Business visitors are distinct from workers as they are not permitted to be employed in the UK.

Which visitors require a visa?

Whether a business visitor will require a visa to enter the UK will depend on the visitor’s nationality.

If a visitor’s nationality is listed here, they must apply for entry clearance in advance of travelling to the UK, unless a limited exception applies. If the visitor’s nationality is not on this list, they are a non-visa national. They can enter the UK without prior entry clearance. They must however still comply with the conditions of leave to enter as a business visitor.

Permitted Activities

Visitors to the UK must be genuine visitors and not intend to remain in the UK beyond the expiry of their visas. They must not intend to live in the UK for extended periods through frequent and successive visits and must only be seeking entry for a purpose that is permitted under the Rules.

Business visitors are restricted as to the types of activities they are permitted to carry out in the UK. The general business activities that visitors are permitted to conduct include:

  • attending meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews;
  • giving a one-off or short series of talks provided these are not organised as commercial events and will not make a profit for the organiser;
  • negotiating and signing deals and contracts;
  • attending trade fairs, for promotional work only, provided the Visitor is not directly selling;
  • carrying out site visits and inspections;
  • gathering information for their employment overseas; and
  • being briefed on the requirements of a UK based customer, provided any work for the customer is done outside of the UK.

The following intra-corporate activities can also be carried out by employees of overseas companies, when they relate to a specific internal project with UK employees of the same corporate group:

  • advising and consulting;
  • trouble-shooting;
  • providing training; and
  • sharing skills and knowledge.

Intra-corporate activities must, not result in the visitor carrying out work directly with clients.

Additional Activities

There are additional activities that business visitors are permitted to undertake if they are operating in a specific field. Further rules apply in the following fields:

  • Manufacturing and supply of goods;
  • Clients of UK export companies;
  • Translators/interpreters;
  • Personal assistants and bodyguards;
  • Tour group couriers;
  • Journalists;
  • Archaeologists;
  • Market researchers; and
  • Overseas employed drivers.

Prohibited Activities

Under the Rules for visit visas, various activities are expressly prohibited. Business visitors must be aware of these to avoid breaching the conditions of their visa:

Business visitors are not permitted to:

  • taki employment in the UK, including undertaking work which amounts to filling a role or providing short-term cover;
  • do work for an organisation/business in the UK (other than the permitted activities as set out above);
  • establish or run a business as a self-employed person;
  • do a work placement or internship;
  • directly sell to the public; and
  • provide goods and services.

Undertaking any of the above activities will constitute a breach of a visitor’s visa conditions. This may negatively impact future visa applications.

Visitors should further note that except in relation to reasonable expenses to cover travel and subsistence, they should generally receive no payment from a UK source for any activities undertaken in the UK.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, including any current or future plans to bring business visitors or workers to the UK, please contact Trainee Solicitor, Megan Moorhouse or another member of our Freeths Immigration Team.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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