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December’s Employment Law Digest: Travelling for Business – what do you need to know?

Many businesses put a stop to international travel for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now that in person meetings are returning and corporate events are increasing in frequency, the need for employees to travel internationally is starting to pick up again.

Whilst it may seem like a distant past, Brexit had a major impact on the ease of EEA and Swiss Nationals being able to travel freely throughout the EU for business purposes. When the UK left the EU on 31 December 2020, free movement for EU Citizens also came to an end.

It is often overlooked but employers need to ensure their employees have the right immigration permissions before confirming travel to the UK.

There are restrictions in place in relation to the activities that an employee can carry out while visiting the UK. It is therefore important to consider the purpose of travel as well as the activities which are going to be carried out whilst in the UK so you can determine what immigration permission is required for business travel.

Business Travel to the UK

EU citizens and other non-visa nationals do not need a visa prior to travel to the UK. They are able to obtain leave to enter as a visitor upon entry at Border Control. This permission enables an individual to remain in the UK for up to 6 months and conduct certain permitted business activities during their time in the UK.

Under this permission individuals are not permitted to carry out paid for work in the UK, although they are able to carry out “permitted business activities” such as attending meetings, signing and negotiating deals and conducting site visits. Employees are also able to conduct or participate in training however they must ensure that no work is carried out directly with clients in the UK. A full list of permitted business activities can be found here. It is important to check that the activities you are requiring your employee to engage with during their time in the UK fall under these permitted business activities so that you can be sure they will not breach their conditions of stay.  Any breach could prevent them obtaining a further UK visa in the future.

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Employees travelling to the UK for less than six months to take part in permitted business activities should ensure they have the right documents to prove their purpose of visit to the UK. This should include a letter from the employer, letter from the inviting company in the UK and potentially a lawyer’s comfort letter. It is also helpful to have evidence of accommodation and return flight bookings.

Visa nationals who are travelling to the UK will need a visa prior to arrival in the UK. A full list of visa nationals can be found here.  You should ensure that a visitor visa application is prepared and submitted prior to confirming travel arrangements. It is essential to ensure you leave sufficient time to make sure the right immigration documents are in place to ensure your employee does not get refused entry at the UK border. Currently, visitor visa processing times are in the region of 6 weeks.

Working in the UK

If you require an individual to carry out work in the UK which is not covered by the permitted business activities, or if they are going to be in the UK for longer than six months, then that individual will most likely require sponsorship. There are multiple sponsor routes available including Skilled Worker, Global Business Mobility routes and Temporary routes.

If you have an individual coming over to the UK for work then you, as an employer, will need to hold the relevant sponsor licence.

Further information about these routes and sponsor licences can be found on our Visa Guidelines Hub.

Travelling from the UK

The end of free movement also impacts of those UK based employees who are required to travel overseas for business. Many countries also have a list of activities which can and cannot be carried out under a business visitor visa and you should ensure you check the requirements for the country the individual is travelling to carefully. To support businesses with sending employees overseas, we utilise our strong network of overseas firms to get employees to where they need to go.


Employers must ensure they plan business travel as early as possible so they ensure that there is time to apply for the right permissions to enter into the country required. If there is a failure to obtain the right immigration permissions this could result in the employee being denied entry to the country.

if you have any questions about this topic, or any other matters to be discussed in relation to immigration, please do contact one of our expert Immigration Lawyers.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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