Your questions answered: Can I have work meetings without a business visa? - Owen Jones replies - as published in the FT

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Posted on 08 Apr 2014

A colleague from the US was scheduled to meet with me next week while he is over in London while on holiday to help me finish an important report. He travels a lot and this is something we have done many times in the past. However, this time my HR manager has found out and says I must not do this as my colleague doesn’t have a business visa. Is this right and surely it’s OK to have a quick meeting with me while he’s in London anyway?

Owen Jones, Head of Business Immigration at employment solicitors Doyle Clayton, says: 

It’s good that your HR manager has alerted you to the issue as it is indeed a surprisingly serious one and something of a hot topic.

On a tourist visa you can’t do any work at all. But even if you do have a business visit visa there are only a number of ‘permissible’ activities you can undertake in the UK and you are not allowed to work. Meetings like the one you mention do typically count as a permissible activity as business visitors are allowed to attend meetings provided they were arranged in advance. However, should he intend to actually work on the report himself then he would be viewed as being in breach of a business visit visa.

What complicates this is that it’s been done “many times in the past”. If it is your colleague’s US role to have oversight of employees or work product in the UK then I consider that your company should look to formalise this situation by arranging a multiple entry visa for him. These can be arranged for overseas employees visiting the UK on a regular basis.

My advice is always that, if in doubt, get the appropriate working visa. If your company is already a licensed sponsor this will only take a week or so to arrange. UK Border Control are increasingly vigilant and now often choose to question visitors carefully.

The Home Office also conduct spot checks on businesses, sometimes based on tip offs. If in breach your colleague would face a UK re-entry ban (lasting up to 10 years) and the business could be fined up to £20,000

This article was originally published in the Financial Times.  To read the full article click the link below, please note this is a subscription only page.

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