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Van der Elst: Using EU law to send non-EU employees to the UK

If you are a business established in an EU country other than the UK, you may be able to send your employees to the UK on temporary assignments using EU free movement law, providing that the worker meets the following criteria:

  1. They are lawfully resident in the EU Member State in which the employer is established;
  2. They are lawfully and habitually employed by an employer who is temporarily providing a service in the UK;
  3. They do not intend to take any other employment; and
  4. They intend to leave the UK at the end of the period during which his employer is providing the service.

Entry clearance is mandatory and so the worker must apply for a visa before coming to the UK. The visa is called a Van der Elst visa, named after the case establishing the rules in the European Court of Justice.

Van der Elst was a Belgian employer, employing Moroccan citizens lawfully in Belgium. The workers were required to provide services on behalf of Van der Elst in France. On arrival in France, the French authorities said that the workers did not have permission to work. Van der Elst appealed the fine they were given and the case came before the European Court of Justice.

Advantages of this visa

There are several advantages to being able to use the Van der Elst route, rather than the Tier 2 skilled worker route:

  1. There is no minimum salary requirement
  2. There is no minimum skill level requirement
  3. The application is free
  4. You do not need to have a Sponsor Licence.

The Van der Elst route also has advantages over entering as a visitor for business, as there is no restriction on the work activities the individual can perform while working in the service of the EU employer.

Conditions of the visa

Successful applicants will be granted a visa for the length of the contract for UK service. They will be prohibited from claiming public funds and they will not be able to take any alternative employment. Dependents can accompany the main applicant, but must apply for their own visa.

Similar arrangements are in place for workers posted from Swiss companies, but their visas can only be granted for up to 90 days.

Contact Us

For expert advice and assistance with an application for a Van der Elst visa, contact our business immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or email


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