Visitor Visa Reform: Reducing the barriers for travel to the UK

Business and Personal Immigration, 08 December 2023

Important changes to the UK’s Visitor Rules have been published on 7 December 2023, most of which will take effect on 31 January 2024, unless otherwise stated below.

The new measures announced introduce more streamlined visitor visa arrangements with fewer restrictions, and have the potential to accelerate international visitation to the UK. They additionally introduce a more equitable approach that recognises the economic contribution of business tourism. 

What are the key changes to the Visitor Rules?

Remote Working

Visitors will be permitted to work remotely undertaking activities relating to their employment overseas from within the UK, providing this is not the primary purpose of their visit.

Remote work is evolving fast hastened by the pandemic and this change presents a potential strategy by the UK to harness the economic and social benefits of attracting international remote talent.

Intra-Corporate Activities

The prohibition on working directly with clients is being removed for intra-corporate activities.

An employee of an overseas based company will be able to advise and consult, troubleshoot, provide training to and share skills and knowledge directly with clients in the UK whilst in the UK as a visitor provided that such client facing activity is incidental to their employment abroad, and is required for the delivery of a project or service by the UK branch of their employer overseas to a UK client.

Legal Professionals

The permitted legal services which legal professionals can provide whilst in the UK as a visitor will be extended to include providing advice, appearing in arbitrations, acting as an arbitrator or mediator, acting as an expert witness, providing advocacy for a court or tribunal hearing, teaching, conducting litigation and providing transactional legal services, including drafting contracts. 

Scientists, Researchers and Academics

Scientists, researchers and academics will be able to take part in formal exchange arrangements with UK counterparts (including doctors), collaborate, gather information and facts, or conduct research, either for a specific project which directly relates to their employment overseas, or independently, and if an eminent senior doctor or dentist, take part in research, teaching or clinical practice, provided this does not amount to filling a permanent teaching post. 

Currently, academics can only conduct research for their own purposes if they are on sabbatical leave from their home institution.

Pilots and Cabin Crew Members

Between 01 March and 31 October, a pilot or cabin crew member may work in the UK temporarily under the terms of a Civil Aviation Authority approved Wet Lease Agreement, providing they remain employed and renumerated overseas.  This will incorporate an existing concession currently operated outside of the rules into the Visitor rules.

Changes to travel document requirements for school groups visiting the UK from France

From 28 December 2023, children aged 18 or under, studying at a school or educational institution in France registered with the French Ministry of Education and seeking to enter the UK as part of a school party of 5 or more pupils organised by that school or institution, will not need entry clearance before they travel to the UK as a visitor.

EU/EEA/Swiss national children aged 18 and under, who are studying at a school in France, can now use national identity cards to visit the UK on an organised school trip instead of passports.  The changes will provide for visa national children aged 18 and under, who are studying at a school in France, to be able to visit the UK on an organised school trip without obtaining a visit visa (but passports will still be required of this cohort).

Permitted Paid Engagements

The provisions of the Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) Visitor route will be moved into the Standard Visitor route. This means all visitors to the UK from 31 January 2024 will be able to undertake PPE activities in the UK without the need for a special PPE visa as long as these activities are completed within 30 days of arrival in the UK as a visitor, are arranged before travel to the UK and evidenced by a formal invitation.

Visitors undertaking PPE activities in the UK will continue to be able to receive payment from a UK source for any such activities undertaken in the UK (in contrast with other visitors to the UK).

PPE activities currently include all of the below which will be moved into the Standard Visitor route:

  • an academic who is highly qualified within their field of expertise may come to the UK to examine students and/or participate in or chair selection panels where they have been invited by a UK higher education institution, or a UK-based research or arts organisation as part of its quality assurance processes
  • an expert may come to the UK 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 may come to the UK 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
  • a qualified lawyer may come to the UK 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 professional sportsperson may come to the UK 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
  • a professional artist, entertainer, or musician may come to the UK 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

Implications for UK Immigration

The new measures announced have the potential to accelerate international visitation to the UK in 2024 and beyond and will ensure that the UK’s visitor offering is competitive with other global destinations for both business and tourism purposes.

How can we help?

We can provide comprehensive advice to individuals globally seeking to apply for a Standard Visitor visa to visit the UK for business or tourism purposes. We can advise on how the changes will affect you and ensure that your visa application complies with all eligibility requirements to ensure your application is successful.

For more detailed UK immigration advice and for any other questions on this and other UK immigration developments, please contact us at info@viajeukimmigration.com