Business Visitors

In general terms, to qualify as a business visitor a foreign national must:

  • - be employed abroad and only intend to visit the UK for short periods in order to undertake certain business related activities;
  • - be based abroad and not intend to transfer their base to the UK, even temporarily;
  • - receive their salary from abroad; and
  • - not be involved in selling goods or services direct to members of the public and not be covering for someone in the UK who is on temporary leave.

They must not be coming to the UK to do a work placement or internship, whether paid or unpaid.

Business visitors are prohibited from taking employment in the UK and must only undertake activities deemed permissible by the UKBA.


The ‘Permissible Activity’ as a Business Visitor

Foreign nationals intending to carry out any of the following ‘permissible activities’ will be regarded as business visitors:

  • - Attending meetings (including interviews that have been arranged before coming to the UK), or conferences;
  • - Attending Trade Fairs provided this is restricted to promotional work and does not involve selling direct to members of the public;
  • - Arranging deals, negotiating or signing trade agreements, contracts, etc;
  • - Undertaking fact-finding missions, for example, journalists on a short assignment to cover a story;
  • - Conducting site visits;
  • - Purchasing, checking details of or examining goods;
  • - Delivering goods from abroad, such as lorry drivers and coach drivers provided they are genuinely working an international route;
  • - Attending interviews, where prior arrangements for interview have been made;
  • - Tour group couriers contracted to a firm outside the UK 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 it is a ‘one-off’ event;
  • - Interpreters or translators who are existing employees of an overseas company and who are accompanying and solely providing a service for business visitors from the company;
  • - Representatives of computer software companies coming to install, debug or enhance their products.
  • - Representatives coming to be briefed on a UK customer’s requirements is also acceptable. But representatives who intend to provide a detailed assessment of a potential customer’s needs should enter under the points-based system (PBS) (Tier 2) because this is regarded as consultancy;
  • - Representatives of foreign manufacturers coming to service or repair their company’s products within their initial period of guarantee;
  • - Representatives of foreign machine manufacturers coming to erect and install machinery too heavy to be delivered in one piece, as part of the contract of purchase and supply;
  • - Monteurs – representatives of foreign companies coming to erect, dismantle, install, service, repair or advise on the development of foreign-made machinery;
  • - Board level Directors attending board meetings in the UK provided they are not employed by a UK company, although there may be a fee for attending the meetings.


Business Visitor – Secondee


A foreign national can be seconded to the UK as a business visitor only where the host company is to provide goods or services to the foreign national’s overseas employer on a direct contractual basis and not vice versa. The home and host company cannot be part of the same group of companies.

The individual must be seconded in a supernumerary capacity for the purpose of assisting the UK company to deliver the contract to the secondee’s overseas employer.

The secondee must remain employed and paid by their overseas employer throughout his visit. When the host company is related to the overseas employer, the foreign national must qualify under the Intra Company Transfer arrangements of Tier 2 of the points bases systems.


Business Visitor – Advisers, consultants, trainers or trouble shooters


A foreign national, who is coming to the UK to act as an adviser, consultant, trainer and trouble shooter, may do so as business visitors, as long as he is coming to provide advice, consultancy, training or trouble shooting the UK branch of its overseas employer.

They cannot conduct work, paid or unpaid, for or on behalf of the UK branch, including, but not limited to providing services for the UK branch to other companies, working in a supernumerary capacity, for example, internship, project managing or by way of short term temporary cover for the UK branch, or having direct involvement in producing goods for the UK company’s clients.

The foreign national must remain employed and paid by the overseas company throughout the visit and typically their visit would be of a one-off short term nature.


Business Visitor – Training


A foreign national may come to the UK as business visitors for specific, one-off training in techniques and work practices used in the UK.

The training should typically be classroom based and / or involve familiarisation or observation as opposed to on the job training. The provision applies in the following circumstances:

  • - where the foreign national is an employee of the same group of companies overseas as the UK company and the training is to be provided in-house.
For instance where an overseas branch send an employee to find out about the UK branch’s IT systems;
  • - where it relates to a product or service that has been sold by a UK company under contract to the overseas company and the latter is to receive training on its use. In this instance the two companies do not need to be related corporately.
 For instance, training on how to use a piece of computer software that has been purchased; or where a UK company has been contracted to provide training facilities only and no tuition, to an overseas company, the trainees and the trainers from the overseas company will be business visitors.
Example: Provision of a classroom or piece of equipment; or where the visitor is an employee from the same group of companies overseas as the UK company and is participating in a corporate training exercise provided to the UK company by an outside provider;
  • - if they are coming here on behalf of their overseas company to receive training of a short duration of 4 weeks in best practices/techniques/skills used in the UK by a UK company engaged by their employer to provide that training. The employer should provide evidence of how the practices earned will be used in their business

For further information on whether you or your employee qualifies to come to the UK as a business visitor please contact us.