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 Positive changes for business visitors to the UK
Immigration law

Positive changes for business visitors to the UK



In its November 2023 Autumn Statement the Government set out plans for immigration reforms aimed at simplifying and expanding the UK’s short-term “business visitor visa” in recognition that “it is vital that businesses can access the talent they need”. To this end, changes to the immigration rules relating to visitors were announced on 7 December 2023 alongside a new statement of changes.

These changes, which took effect on 31 January 2024, have been welcomed as a sign of the Government’s commitment to making it easier to do business in the UK. It is expected that we will see further positive changes announced throughout the course of 2024.

Business visitors – overview

The rules on what visitors to the UK can and cannot do are complex and the consequences for breaching them can be serious and can adversely affect future immigration applications.

Generally speaking, work is a prohibited activity for visitors to the UK unless it is listed as one of the permitted activities under the Immigration Rules. There are also important restrictions on payment for such activities from a UK source.

Recent changes have expanded the list of permitted work-related activities that visitors conducting business in the UK can undertake. It is hoped that these changes will result in increased flexibility for business visitors to the UK.

We outline some of the most relevant changes for businesses below

1.Client-facing intra-corporate activity

One welcome development is the widening of the scope of “permitted business activities” under the visitor visa rules to allow an employee of an overseas-based company to work directly with clients (subject to certain caveats outlined below).

Previously, an employee of an overseas based company was only allowed to visit the UK to advise and consult, troubleshoot, provide training, and share skills and knowledge on a specific internal project with UK employees of the same corporate group.

These activities can now be carried out directly with the client, provided that the activity is incidental to (i.e. not the primary purpose of) the visitor’s employment abroad and the activities are required for a service or project delivered by the UK branch and not the overseas company. For example, an employee could travel to the UK to support their UK-based colleagues on a project being led from the UK branch, and this naturally leads to the employee working directly with clients.

2. Remote working

It has now been made explicit in the rules that visitors can undertake activities relating to their employment overseas remotely whilst in the UK. This is provided that the remote working is not the primary purpose of their visit.

Examples of permitted activities would include responding to emails, answering phone calls or participating in remote meetings. Where a visitor is coming to the UK to undertake permitted business activities, such as attending meetings or conferences, they can also work remotely as part of their overseas employment. However, this should not amount to the visitor being seconded to a UK company or organisation, or to the UK branch of their overseas employer.

3. Speakers included in the Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE) list

Speakers at conferences have now been included in the PPE list meaning that they can now receive payment from a UK source. PPE was previously its own, standalone, visit visa category. It has now been moved to sit within the Standard Visit Visa category which means that those entering for PPE reasons may be issued permission for up to six months, rather than one month, provided they comply with all other the relevant rules. However, PPE visitors will still be required to have arranged their PPE activity prior to travel to the UK and will still be expected to complete their permitted paid engagements within 30 days of their entry to the UK.

4. Scientists, researchers, academics and legal professionals

Previously, only academics were permitted to take part in formal exchange arrangements with UK counterparts. Scientists and researchers can now also take part in formal exchange arrangements with UK counterparts (including doctors).

Scientists and researchers can now conduct research in the UK as part of their visit. This was previously limited to “independent” research. Similarly, certain academics visiting the UK on a standard visit visa, can now also conduct research whereas previously they could only conduct research for their own purposes if they were on sabbatical leave from their home institution.

The (non-exhaustive) list of permitted activities for legal professionals has also been expanded. Overseas lawyers can now provide legal services in the UK, including:

  • Advice
  • Appearing in arbitrations
  • Acting as an arbitrator or mediator
  • Acting as an expert witness
  • Appearing in court in jurisdictions which allow short-term call or where qualified in that jurisdiction
  • Conferences and teaching
  • Providing advocacy for a court or tribunal hearing
  • Litigation
  • Transactional legal services, including drafting contracts


These changes will come as a welcome relief to some of the more restrictive reforms set to be introduced in 2024 (such as the increase to the salary threshold for most sponsored workers).

Whilst the changes to the visitor route will not solve all problems, they will go some way to alleviate difficulties faced by businesses struggling to navigate the UK immigration system post-Brexit.

Further changes to the business visitor rules are expected in 2024 with the Government announcing its plan to “explore further improvements to the business visitor rules alongside the potential for further enhanced provisions linked to trade negotiations”.

Notwithstanding the changes, individuals and businesses alike will need to continue to assess the purpose of any business trip to ensure that the planned activities fall within the scope of permitted visitor activities. For advice on the use of the business visitor route, please get in touch with our immigration team.



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Call us for free on 0330 159 5555 or complete our online form below to submit your enquiry or arrange a call back.