Since the pandemic, the idea of working remotely has become increasingly popular and has allowed greater flexibility to travel. The shift to hybrid work models has also raised an important question regarding whether or not a person visiting the UK is lawfully able to work remotely during that visit. Here we explore this question.
Visitors cannot work in the UK unless they are in the UK for a ‘permitted activity’. These are set out in Appendix Visitor: Permitted Activities.
What are the general rules on permitted activities?
Visitors to the UK are not allowed to:
- take up employment in the UK;
- work for an organisation or business in the UK;
- establish or run a business as a self-employed person;
- undertake a work placement or internship;
- directly sell to the public; or
- provide goods and services
However, a visitor may conduct general business activities in the UK. The following business activities are permitted:
- attend interviews, meetings, conferences, and seminars;
- negotiate and sign deals and contracts;
- attend trade fairs to promote your business (you cannot sell things);
- do work-related training if you are employed overseas and the training is not available in your home country;
- give a one-off or short series of talks as long as they are not for profit or a commercial event (you must not be paid);
- carry out site visits and inspections;
- oversee the delivery of goods and services provided by a UK company to your overseas company or organisation;
- deliver training or share knowledge on internal projects with UK employees of the company you work for overseas; and
- install, dismantle, repair, service or advise on equipment, computer software and hardware, if your overseas company has a contract with a UK company or organisation.
Visitors are prohibited from undertaking paid or unpaid work for a UK company, or as a self-employed person. If an individual’s intention is to come to the UK to work for a company based in the UK (regardless of whether this will be in an office or from home), they will need to apply for a Skilled Worker visa.
Visitors can work remotely in some circumstances
The most recent Home Office guidance for visitors sets out the circumstances in which an individual can work remotely in the UK whilst on a visit visa.
The guidance states that visitors are permitted to undertake activities relating to their employment overseas remotely whilst they are in the UK, such as responding to emails and answering phone calls. However, the main purpose of the trip must be for a ‘permitted activity’. A visitor cannot come to the UK with the main intention to work remotely.
If it is indicated that a visitor will be working remotely in the UK, the Home Office is likely to question this to ensure the main purpose of the visit is not to work in the UK. The Home Office guidance states:
‘Where the applicant indicates that they intend to spend a large proportion of their time in the UK and will be doing some remote working, you should ensure that they are genuinely employed overseas and are not seeking to work in the UK’.
In such cases, it would therefore be prudent to provide evidence of employment overseas.
The Home Office will also need to be satisfied that the individual is a genuine visitor and will not be making the UK their main home through ‘frequent and successive’ visits. A number of factors will be considered such as:
- the purpose of the visit;
- the number of visits made in the past 12 months;
- the length of previous visits; and
- links to their home country.
This is still an evolving topic and more guidance would certainly be helpful regarding what is and isn’t permitted when remote working in the UK. The examples given in the Home Office guidance are fairly vague.
Unfortunately we are unable to provide ad hoc advice to individuals who work for an overseas employer on whether or not they may work during a visit to the UK.
How our immigration solicitors can help
We advise businesses on the UK’s immigration requirements including whether or not an individual can work while visiting the UK or if they will need a work visa.
For further information, please contact us or complete our enquiry form below.