A business visitor is an individual who visits the UK to engage in activities directly linked to their employment or business abroad and who will receive their salary abroad. This category provides an accessible route to allow people who are employed by and represent overseas organisations to visit the UK in order to “transact business” on behalf of their overseas employer. It also allows senior members of staff to attend meetings (e.g. board meetings) and professionals in certain fields to visit the UK for certain purposes (see below).
Please read the important information below. However, if you require any advice about a specific situation where a business visitor visa may be required (or if an applicant has recently been refused a visa, or entry on arrival), please contact us for feedback.
In the past, this category has been commonly used as a route for individuals employed by overseas branches of multinational organisations, to make work-related trips to the UK branch. However, following the introduction of the Points Based System, (in March 2009) tighter restrictions have been applied to this category. Crucially, the Border Agency has stated that where an individual works for an overseas branch of the UK company, the individual should enter the UK under Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) of the Points Based System. UK Work Permits Ltd has seen evidence that the new restrictions are being enforced with increasing stringency.
The Business Visitor category has also been commonly used for overseas group employees to undertake “secondments” at a UK branch of a multinational organisation. However, according to recently revised guidance, the provision for “secondees” relates specifically and only to a situation where the UK company is to provide goods or services directly to the overseas company, and where there is no direct link (in ownership) between the two companies (The purpose of such a secondment for example would be to ensure that the requirements of the overseas company are met by the UK supplier). The provisions for secondments under the revised Business Visitor rules, and the Immigration Directorate Instructions, specifically state that secondments are not permitted where the individual is an employee of an overseas group company, and that, in such circumstances the employee should enter the UK under Tier 2 of the Points Based System.
UK Employers that have avoided obtaining a sponsor’s licence with the intention that overseas group employees will be able to enter the UK under the business visitor category will need to review their strategy. Such employers will be forced to sponsor future overseas employees under Tier 2 of the Points Based System, and will therefore need to obtain a sponsor’s licence, if they do not already hold one.
Taking the above into account, the Business Visitor category remains open. The “permissible activities” that currently are allowed under this category fall short of actual “work” and are described as follows:
* attending meetings, including interviews that have been arranged before coming to the United Kingdom, or conferences;
* arranging deals or negotiating or signing trade agreements or contracts;
* undertaking fact finding missions;
* conducting site visits;
* delivering goods and passengers from abroad such as lorry drivers and coach drivers provided they are genuinely working an international route;
* tour group couriers who are contracted to a firm outside the United Kingdom, who are seeking entry to accompany a tour group and who intend to leave with that tour group;
* speaking at a conference where this is not run as a commercial concern and the conference is a ‘one of’;
* representing computer software companies by coming to install, debug or enhance their products. Representatives of such companies may also be admitted as business visitors in order to be briefed as to the requirements of a United Kingdom customer but if they are to provide a service involving the use of their expertise to make a detailed assessment of a potential customer’s requirements this should be regarded as consultancy work for which entry under the points-based system would be required;
* representing foreign manufacturers by coming to service or repair their company’s products within their initial period of guarantee;
* representing foreign machine manufacturers by coming to erect and install machinery too heavy to be delivered in one piece, as part of the contract of purchase and supply;
* interpreting or translating for visiting business persons, provided the interpreter/translator is employed by the overseas company and is coming solely to provide this service for the visiting company member.
* monteurs – workers, for example fitters or servicepersons coming for up to six months to erect, dismantle, install, service, repair or advise on the development of foreign-made machinery;
* board-level Directors attending board meetings in the United Kingdom provided they are not employed by a United Kingdom company, although they may be paid a fee for attending the meeting.
Those granted entry under the Business Visitor category, are likely to be:
- Academic visitors (may enter or stay for twelve months maximum, subject to entry clearance if over 12 months).
- Doctors taking the professional and linguistic assessment board (PLAB)
- Doctors coming for clinical attachment or dentists coming for observation
- Visiting professors accompanying students undertaking study abroad programmes. See guidance for further information.
- Film crews on location shoots only, provided they are employed or paid by an overseas company.
- Representatives of overseas news media provided they are employed or paid by an overseas company and are gathering information for an overseas publication or programme.
- Secondees from overseas companies.
- Religious workers undertaking some preaching or pastoral work during a business visit (eg to attend a conference), provided their base is abroad and they are not taking up an office, post or appointment.
- Interpreters and translators employed by an overseas company who are coming to the UK solely to accompany and provide a service to business visitors from the company.
- Advisers, consultants, trainers or trouble shooters employed abroad by the same company to which the client firm in the UK belongs, provided this does not amount to employment paid or unpaid for the UK branch;
- Persons undertaking specific, one-off training in techniques and work practices used in the UK.
Aims and purpose
The purpose of this category is to provide a convenient and speedy route to individuals who need to “conduct” business or engage in business-related activities for short periods of time. This is in recognition of the increasingly global nature of business and of the concurrent need for non-EEA nationals to engage in short business visits to the UK.
Potential entrants must generally be able to show that they:
- only want to visit the United Kingdom for up to six months;
- plan to leave the United Kingdom at the end of your visit;
- have enough money to support and accommodate yourself without working, help from public funds or you will be supported and accommodated by relatives or friends;
- do not intend to charge members of the public for services provided or goods received;
- do not intend to study;
- can meet the cost of the return or onward journey;
- are based abroad and have no intention of transferring your base to the United Kingdom even temporarily;
- receive your salary from abroad.
Demonstrating an intention to leave the UK after the requested period can be achieved by showing evidence of strong financial, social and family ties in the country of residence. Further relevant documents will vary according to circumstances and availability.
Period of Stay
Successful applicants will be given leave to enter the UK for no longer than 6 months. There is no option for leave as a Business Visitor to lead to, or count towards, Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR, otherwise known as permanent residence or settlement).
There is no limit to the number of times an individual can visit the UK but an ECO (Entry Clearance Officer) or Immigration Officer would not expect a person to spend more than six months of any 12-month period in the UK. One long stay under this category might suggest that a person has been basing him/herself in the UK and actually working here (which is of course not permitted). Those making repeated lengthy business visits to the UK are likely to be questioned more closely and may find that they are refused entry at some stage.
N.B. Only visa nationals need to obtain prior entry clearance for this type of immigration leave. Non-visa nationals can make an application under this category on entry.
Other Useful Information
- Entry Clearance processing time: Varies around the world
- Dependents: Husband/wife; dependent children under 18. However, the ECO may ask for strong evidence of family ties in the country of residence if dependents are travelling with the applicant.
If you are interested in coming to the UK as a business visitor, please contact us for advice on the suitability of this route.