The Government has clarified the situation with regards to short stay business visitors and staff attending exhibitions and conferences coming from the EU to the UK and vice versa. It has also outlined what will be entailed for moving event materials across borders and whether or not speakers will also need working visas.
Under the UK’s new points-based immigration system, a person can continue to visit the UK without applying for a visa and is able to stay for up to six months. An individual may participate in business-related activities such as meetings, events and conferences.
A person can enter the UK multiple times during that period but may not live in the country by means of frequent or successive visits.
The Government website says: “As a business visitor you cannot do paid or unpaid work for a UK company or as a self-employed person. You cannot do a work placement or internship or sell directly to the public or provide goods and services.”
The guidance for UK nationals visiting the EU says that if you travel to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein for less than 90 days in a 180-day period, you will not need a visa or work permit for going to a business meeting. A visa would be required if an individual planned to stay longer than 90 days.
However, a visa will be required if a person transfers from the UK branch of a company to a branch in a different country, even for a short period of time, and is also required if carrying out contracts to provide a service to a client in another country in which the employer has no presence.
Those who are self-employed providing services in another country will also require a visa.
Check the entry requirements and rules of the country you’re visiting to find out if you need a visa or work permit.
Transporting materials, such as exhibition stands and goods
Clarification has also been given surrounding the temporary transportation of business samples and goods for exhibiting and conferencing and production materials and exhibition structures between the UK and EU.
When temporarily transporting business samples or goods to the UK, you may be able to get import duty relief on goods using Temporary Admission.
Full relief can be given when these goods are exhibited or used at a public event, not purely organised for commercial sale, delivered by the owner for inspection to a person in the UK who has the right to purchase them after inspection. Sample goods must be solely used for being shown or demonstrated in the UK. The imported sample quantities must be of a reasonable amount and in line with their use. You can be established in the UK to declare goods to this relief although prior authorisation is needed.
When temporarily transporting business samples or goods to the EU, you can apply for an ATA Carnet. ATA Carnets let you temporarily export commercial samples, trade fair or exhibition goods and professional equipment to countries that are part of the ATA Carnet system.
Do speakers need working visas?
The situation regarding paid speakers from overseas presenting at a UK conference remains unclear. A source revealed that a clear answer from the Home Office on the issue has been chased. However, it is believed that for most business conferences, if a speaker is being paid they will need a work permit.
There are a couple of pieces of relevant guidance: the Immigration Rules Appendix Visitor: Permitted Activities notes that a visitor to the UK may attend meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews and give 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.
There are exemptions for professionals in academia and other professions according to the Immigration Rules Appendix V: Visitor which states that the following are permitted paid engagements:
- An academic who is highly qualified within their field of expertise, coming to examine students and/or participate in or chair selection panels, and have been invited by a UK higher education institution, or a UK-based research or arts organisation as part of that institution or organisation’s quality assurance processes
- An expert coming to give lectures in their subject area, where they have been invited by a higher education institution; or a UK-based research or arts organisation, and this does not amount to filling a teaching position for the host organisation
- An overseas designated pilot examiner coming to assess UK-based pilots to ensure they meet the national aviation regulatory requirements of other countries, where they have been invited by an approved training organisation based in the UK that is regulated by the UK Civil Aviation Authority for that purpose
- A qualified lawyer coming to provide advocacy for a court or tribunal hearing, arbitration or other form of dispute resolution for legal proceedings within the UK, where they have been invited by a client
- A a professional artist, entertainer, or musician coming to carry out an activity directly relating to their profession, where they have been invited by a creative (arts or entertainment) organisation, agent or broadcaster based in the UK
- A professional sports person coming to carry out an activity directly relating to their profession, where they have been invited by a sports organisation, agent, or broadcaster based in the UK.