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Post-Brexit business travel between the UK and the EU


The freedom of movement between the UK and the EU ended with the end of the transition period at 11pm on 31 December 2020.  In this article we look at the impact on short-term business travel, inbound and outbound.

Business travel includes generally short-term activities such as travelling for meetings and conferences and providing services (including for a charity or not-for-profit organisation).  In both the UK and EU, a limited number of business activities will be permitted without a visa, such as travelling to attend meetings with colleagues, clients or customers and attending conferences and exhibitions connected with trade, industry or work. Anything beyond that is likely to require a work visa.  The visa requirement is typically triggered by the activities being undertaken, not by the duration of the visit.

We will be publishing a separate article on the rules applicable to longer-term work assignments between the UK and the EU from 1 January 2021, as these are subject to various rules including:

  • the new UK immigration system and the settlement scheme.  For more details of the new immigration rules see here
  • immigration requirements of EU countries; and
  • the rules relating to frontier workers.

Business travel from the UK to the EU

From 1 January 2021, UK nationals can travel visa-free to countries in the Schengen area (covering Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Sweden and all of the EU countries except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania) for up to 90 days in any 180-day rolling period. This applies to travel to attend business meetings, and also travel as a tourist, to visit family or friends, for cultural or sports events or for short-term studies or training.

UK nationals will need:

  • UK Nationals will need: a valid passport that has at least six months left and is less than 10 years old  (even if it has six months or more left); and
  • depending on the country they are travelling to, they may also need proof of accommodation, insurance and funds available for the trip. Entry requirements of each country should be checked before travelling.

To stay longer, whether for business or other reasons, or to work or study, UK nationals will need to check what type of visa/work permit they may need, a Schengen Business Visa or a work permit.

Schengen Business Visa

This visa was established with the sole purpose of facilitating traveling to the Schengen area for business purposes.

It is required for citizens of countries that have mandatory visa requirements for visits to the Schengen area, and who are travelling with the sole purpose of conducting business.

Whilst UK nationals do not have mandatory visa requirements for visits, if their trip is solely to conduct business, they are likely to require a visa.

Employees will, amongst other things, be required to provide:

  • a letter from their employer describing the purpose of their visit and permission for their travel;
  • a copy of their employment contract; and
  • a copy of their current bank statement for the last six months.

Work permit

If the work is extensive it is likely a work permit will be required in the country travelled to depending on its particular requirements.

Business travel from the EU to the UK

Similar principles apply. If a person is classed as a business visitor, their visit to the UK must be linked to their employment overseas. Therefore, if a person is required to carry out some of their employment activity in the UK, this is permitted provided their stay in the UK is less than six months and complies with the permitted activities contained in the appendices of the UK immigration rules.  It will be for the individual to assess whether the intended activities fall within the permitted activities.

For any other activities, business visitors are not permitted to work or base themselves in the UK and will need to apply for a visa under the new immigration system.

What are the permitted activities?

Permitted activities must not amount to employment or filling a role in the UK, even on a temporary basis.

General business activities

For those who are seeking to visit the UK for the purpose of conducting business activities these are limited to the following:

  • attending meetings, conferences, seminars or interviews;
  • giving 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;
  • 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.

Remote working

Visitors are permitted to undertake activities relating to their employment remotely whilst they are in the UK, such as responding to e-mails or answering phone calls, visa-free. However, the main purpose of coming to the UK must not be specifically to work remotely from the UK.

Intra-corporate activities

Intra-corporate activities are permitted if for a short duration, linked to a specific project and not involving the employee working directly with or for clients. Employees must work out of the employer’s offices only. An employee is also permitted to work on a specific internal project with UK employees of the same corporate group but again provided no work is carried out directly with clients.

Employees may:

  • advise and consult;
  • trouble-shoot;
  • provide training; and
  • share skills and knowledge.

An employee cannot come to the UK with an intention of working directly with a client or of filling a role in the company as an ‘intra-company transferee’. If this is the intention, then they must apply for a visa under the intra-company route.

Manufacturing and supply of goods

Employees of foreign manufacturers who provide goods and services in the UK can come to the UK as a visitor to install, dismantle, repair, service or advise on equipment, computer software or hardware, where such manufacturer has a contract of purchase or supply or lease with a UK company or organisation.

In addition, where UK and EU companies have entered into a contractual agreement, employees can visit the UK to oversee delivery of that contract. Repeat visits are possible if the duration of the contract is for more than six months but there should be a clear end date for the work.

UK/Ireland arrangements under the Common Travel Area

If you are an Irish citizen living in the UK or a British citizen living in Ireland the Common Travel Area (CTA) arrangements allow you to travel freely within the CTA.

You do not need permission to enter or remain in the UK, including a visa or any form of residence permit or frontier permit.

If you are an Irish or British national you can work in either country, including on a self-employed basis, without needing any permission from the authorities.

For more information please contact us.


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