Immigration update: How will changes to UK and EEA visitor rules affect business travel?


Following changes to UK immigration rules and the end of free movement between the UK and the EEA, business travelers need to ensure their actions comply with the rules of visitors before traveling.

Activities that do not fall under the visitor rules will likely require a work visa. We look at the rules in UK, France and Germany and visitor requirements for each.

What do EEA nationals need to know to visit the UK?

Do they have the required documents?

Before leaving for the UK for a business trip or vacation, EEA nationals should make sure they have their papers in order. From 1 October, EEA nationals who do not hold a specific visa to enter the UK (for example, under the EU settlement program, a family permit from the EEA or via a border worker permit) will be required to use their passport to enter the UK. This is a change from the rules that were previously in place, according to which EEA nationals could travel using their national identity card. Companies should therefore ensure that their employees hold a passport before sending them to the UK on a business trip. Their passport must be valid for the duration of their stay in the UK.

Are their activities permitted as a visitor?

Visitors from the EEA can enter the UK for up to six months for reasons such as holidays, to travel through the UK on their way to another country or on business. Visitors cannot work in the UK without a visa, so what can they do while on a business trip to the UK? Visitors can:

  • attend conferences, seminars, business meetings or interviews;
  • give a single or short series of lectures or speeches (provided they are not commercial events and do not report to the organizer);
  • negotiate and sign agreements and contracts;
  • attend trade shows, for promotional purposes only;
  • carry out on-site visits and inspections;
  • collect information for their employment abroad; and
  • be informed of the requirements of a UK based client, provided that any work for the client is performed outside of the UK.

Visitors should make sure that they are not working for a company in the UK or running a business as a self-employed person. They should not receive any payment for activities in the UK except for reasonable expenses to cover travel and subsistence costs (for example, if they are visiting a UK office of a company overseas) .

What if they are on a business trip to the UK from an overseas office?

Visitors may carry out certain business activities when they visit their employer’s UK intra-company office abroad. An employee of a company based abroad can provide advice, training and share their skills and knowledge with UK employees on a specific internal project, provided that no work is done directly with clients.

When traveling to the UK from a foreign employer, we recommend that the employee travels with a letter from their overseas employer confirming the activities they will be carrying out during their stay in the UK. Please let us know if we can help you prepare such a letter.

What if they are under contract to manufacture and supply goods in the UK?

Employees of a foreign manufacturer or supplier will not need a work visa (and therefore can enter the UK as a visitor) to install, disassemble, repair, maintain or advise on the hardware, software or hardware, where the manufacturer or supplier has a contract to buy or supply or hire with a UK company or organization.

From October 6, 2021, visitors will also be able to train UK-based employees to provide these services. The requirement to have a purchase, supply or lease contract with a UK company will also be extended, as the foreign entity will need to either be (a) the manufacturer or supplier or (b) be part of a contractual agreement for the sale of after-sales services agreed at the time of sale or rental, including in a warranty or other service contract incidental to the sale or rental.

What do UK nationals need to know to visit the EU?

Entering the Schengen area / Working in the EU

With the UK no longer part of the EU, UK citizens are now considered third country nationals. However, UK nationals can still visit the Schengen area without having to apply for a visa for up to 90 days within a 6 month period (“visa free period”) for leisure activities.

The Schengen area is a group of 26 countries in Europe which have abolished their internal borders and therefore individuals can move freely in the Schengen area without being subject to border controls. The 26 countries are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. It is possible to apply for a Schengen visa to allow free movement within the Schengen area. British nationals are exempt from the obligation to apply for a Schengen visa.

To enter the Schengen area, UK nationals will need their passports which must be valid for at least three months after their intended exit from the Schengen area and must have been issued within the past 10 years. In addition, UK nationals must travel with documents, among other things, indicating the purpose and duration of their visit and be able to prove the financial means of their stay.

When UK nationals travel to the EU for business purposes (e.g. business travel) UK employers will need to observe that certain minimum working conditions apply to these UK nationals (e.g. statutory rules on remuneration, working hours and paid holidays). . In addition, certain notification obligations to the competent authorities of the country concerned for posted workers may apply.

Attention should be paid to country-specific regulations regarding entry requirements that may apply due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Visas and work permits

British nationals traveling to France for a business trip do not need a visa if their stay does not exceed 90 days, or, in the event of several stays, if their cumulative stays do not exceed 90 days over a period 180 days in the Schengen area. However, there may be specific rules and constraints relating to entry into France and / or quarantine depending on whether the individual is vaccinated or not and depending on the current pandemic status. We recommend that the applicable rules in force be checked before travel.

They would also be exempt from requiring a work permit if their travel is limited to the following main activities:

  • Attend conferences, seminars and trade shows;
  • Attend sporting, cultural, artistic and scientific events;
  • Carry out audit and expertise missions in IT, management, finance, insurance, architecture and engineering as a seconded employee under contract.

Other specific exemptions exist in the fields of culture, modeling and education.

Declaration of posting

If the professional trip to France is for the benefit of the British employer and not of a French branch or a third party located in France, it is not necessary to declare the British employees as posted employees. Otherwise, British nationals should be declared as such to the French authorities even if they only stay a few days, with the exception of speakers at seminars and scientific events and other specific exceptions.

The posting declaration can be made online here.

Rules applicable to labor law

Note that the following “main” areas of French law apply to foreign employees traveling on business to France:

  • individual and collective freedoms in the employment relationship;
  • rules on discrimination and gender equality;
  • working time, compensatory rest;
  • remuneration (including overtime);
  • rules relating to occupational health and safety;
  • rules on illegal work;
  • reimbursement of certain professional expenses linked to the employee’s mission (transport, meals and accommodation).

Germany – British nationals visiting Germany

The freedom of movement of British nationals in the EU ended with Brexit and since then working in Germany has generally entailed visa requirements. If a visa is required for a particular professional activity, that work should not be done until the visa has been issued. Failures can result in penalties, such as potentially high fines for the employer.

However, there are some exceptions for certain activities that UK nationals are allowed to carry out during their stay in Germany without having to obtain a visa first. These visa-free activities include, for example:

  • attend business meetings,
  • negotiate and conclude agreements and / or contracts,
  • activities relating to labor and material contracts (Werklieferungsverträge) or
  • activities of tourist guides, cross-border coach drivers, professional athletes, photo models or interpreters,

but the applicability remains subject to the appreciation of each individual case.

When UK nationals travel to Germany for such business activities, we recommend that their employers provide them with the appropriate documentation, for example a letter indicating the extent and duration of their activities, which can be presented to the authorities upon entry. in Germany.

What about border workers?

For people from the EEA who live outside the UK and have started working in the UK no later than December 31, 2020, it is still possible to travel to the UK using a border worker permit . The application is free and can be done online. Please contact us if you would like more information on the application for a border worker permit.

Right to work checks

Employers should be aware that the government updated the Right to Work Screening Guidelines on August 31, 2021. The list of acceptable documents when performing a screening has been updated so that employers are familiar with it. the eligible documents and ensure that the checks are carried out in their entirety. .

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