UK-EU Business Travel – Understanding country-specific visa requirements

Post-Brexit, UK citizens no longer enjoy free movement within the EU and EU citizens no longer have the right to travel freely to the UK. Anyone who wants to do this must therefore understand and comply with the country-specific visa regulations.

This article outlines some of the things that EU and UK citizens should consider before traveling on business.

EU citizens traveling to the UK

EU citizens do not need to apply for a visa before traveling to the UK for a business visit. Entry permits as visitors can be secured at the border.

EU citizens traveling to the UK for business reasons are allowed to stay in the UK for up to 6 months. Although these visitors are not permitted to work in the UK, they are permitted to engage in business activities, including attending meetings, negotiating and signing contracts and conducting site visits. During a visit, an employee of a company based abroad may come to the UK to advise and advise, troubleshoot, provide training and share skills and knowledge with UK employees of the same group of companies, provided no work is carried out directly with clients.

Business travelers should ensure they are familiar with the list of permitted activities before traveling to the UK to reduce the risk of violating the Conditions of Stay. It can also be helpful to check the list of prohibited activities before you travel.

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Those planning to come to the UK for permanent work must apply for an entry permit under an appropriate category for work, global mobility or business.

British citizens traveling to the EU/Schengen area

The situation is a bit more complex for UK citizens wishing to travel to the EU and Schengen area on business.

The Schengen area is an area of ​​Europe where countries have abolished their internal borders to allow free movement of people. It consists of most EU member states (except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania) and also includes Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Unlike nationals of most non-Schengen countries, British citizens do not need to apply for a Schengen visa to enter the Schengen area, but they must respect the time limits applicable to visitors, including business travellers. This means that business travelers are not allowed to spend more than 90 days in the Schengen area in any 180-day period.

The 180-day limit is ‘rolling’, meaning that each time a British visitor wishes to enter the Schengen area, they must count back 180 days to ensure they have not already reached the 90-day limit Has. It is important to note that both tourist and business activities count towards the 90 limit, which means that if a person spends 7 days as a tourist in Spain and another 5 days as a business traveler in France, this counts rather than 12 days is considered 5. However, if a visitor spends another 30 days in Bulgaria, this does not change the calculation, since the rule only applies to the countries that have decided to join the Schengen area.

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Incorrect calculation of the time spent in the Schengen areas can have adverse consequences.

If a visitor is found to have “exceeded” their 90-day residency permit, they may be removed from the area, barred from re-entry, and/or fined.

The second problem British citizens face is the different definition of doing business across the EU and the Schengen area. While the UK clearly defines what activities business travelers can and cannot engage in, there is no equivalent EU definition that can be applied to all countries.

This means that prior to travel, a visitor must check the specific regulations of the destination country to ensure the planned activities are permitted. The definition of business activity can vary significantly from country to country, so care must be taken by a visitor to avoid violating residence requirements.

The UK government has produced a guide for each EU and Schengen country detailing the different visa options and required permits for UK citizens.

There are no restrictions on UK nationals wishing to live or work in Ireland.

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A mandatory online visa waiver program is expected to be implemented from November 2023. This will be similar to the US ESTA visa waiver program.

Once introduced, UK citizens will need to apply for an ETIAS authorization before visiting the Schengen area to cross an external border into the area. The European Travel Information and Authorization System aims to increase security in the Schengen area. The application process is online and the application should only take a few minutes.

The ETIAS visa waiver permit is valid for multiple stays of up to 3 months in any of the Schengen countries.

ETIAS applies to business activities such as attending a meeting, conference or other business event. However, a visitor with an ETIAS authorization is not allowed to take up paid employment in a European country. To do this, they must understand the requirements for a work visa in the European country they wish to work in and ensure they have an appropriate visa before taking up employment in that country.

If you have any questions about the topics discussed, please contact Megan Moorhouse or the Business Immigration Team.

The content of this page is a summary of the law currently in force and does not purport to be exhaustive or constitute definitive advice. If you have any questions, professional legal advice should be sought.

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