Personal Immigration
Business Immigration

What can business people do when visiting the UK?

Often, individuals need to make a visit to the UK at the request of their employer or to conduct some of their own business in the UK. However, the Immigration Rules and Guidance can be a little overwhelming or confusing for people who are trying to understand if it is possible for them to enter as a visitor and undertake the activities that they intend, or whether it is necessary to obtain a different type of visa to ensure that they do not breach any conditions of their stay.

The Immigration Rules for visitors were reformed a few years ago, with the intention of making the category altogether more straight-forward and easy to use. The main advantage of the changes, is that the Rules now allow people to come to the UK for multiple purposes in a single visit. It is no longer necessary to specify that a visit is for the purpose of business and not for tourism, when many people do want to engage in multiple different activities in the UK.

The biggest issue for visitors who are coming to the UK for business purposes is that they cannot work in the UK. The Rules for visitors contain a specific definition of work, which is not contained in the general definitions in the Immigration Rules. For Visitors ‘work’ includes:

  • Taking employment in the UK;
  • Doing work for an organisation or business in the UK;
  • Establishing or running a business as a self-employed person;
  • Doing a work placement or internship;
  • Direct selling to the public;
  • Providing goods and services;

If you intend to carry out any of these activities while in the UK, it is likely that you will need to make an application in a different category, even if you only want to come to the UK for a short period. However, there are a number of business activities which are permitted by the rules for visitors, provided the Visitor is not being paid by a UK source as set out above. This includes:

  • Attend meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews;
  • Give a one-off or short series of talks and speeches provided these are not organised as commercial events;
  • Negotiate and sign deals and contracts;
  • Attend trade fairs, for promotional work only, provided the visitor is not directly selling;
  • Carry out site visits and inspections;
  • Gather information for their employment overseas;
  • Be briefed on the requirements of a UK based customer.

Visitors must not receive payment from a UK source for their activities in the UK, with the following exceptions:

Reasonable expenses

  • Prize money
  • Billing a UK client for their time, where the employer is contracted to provide services to the UK company and the majority of the contracted work is carried out overseas. Payment must be lower than the applicant’s salary;
  • Payment by a multinational company who, for administrative reasons, handle payment of their employees salaries from the UK;
  • Permitted Paid Engagements and performance at permit free festivals

Again, if a UK employer is going to be paying you a salary for your activity in the UK, it is likely that there will be a more appropriate category for you.

Visits will normally be granted for a period of 6 months, although the Home Office does have the power to grant leave for a shorter period.

The visitor route can be a useful route for someone who is intending to come to the UK in another category for example, to attend interviews or trade fairs when looking for Tier 2 sponsored work. Those intending to come to the UK as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) may also find it useful to first come to the UK as a visitor to attend initial meetings, carry out research and sign initial contracts, in preparation for the business they plan to run as an Entrepreneur.

Visitors, should be aware that it is not possible to switch into either Tier 2 or Tier 1 from within the UK when in the Visit (Standard) category, and so individuals will always need to prepare to leave the UK at the end of their visit, no matter how successful it has been, in order to return to make their entry clearance application.

Contact Our Business Immigration Barristers

For information or advice about coming to the UK for business reasons, contact our specialist business immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or via our enquiry form.


To arrange an initial consultation meeting, call our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or fill out the form below.

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