Within the Deal reached on Christmas Eve 2020 there is very little agreement on reciprocal immigration provisions or free movement for workers, with the UK particularly keen to ensure that most European national workers and business people are subject to the same Immigration Rules as the rest of the world. 

However there are exceptions made for short term business visitors, contractual service providers, independent professionals, intra-corporate transferees and business visitors for establishment purposes.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement (the “Deal”) introduces visa free travel for short term business visitors. 

Business visits – EU to UK and UK to EU

When negotiating the Deal, the UK refused to include most provisions aimed at facilitating short-term visits or long-term stays, not wishing to stray from its much vaunted intention to offer no preferential treatment to EU nationals under the UK immigration system. They did however agree to a reciprocal arrangement for the temporary movement of natural persons for business purposes.

As of 1 January 2021, the EU will allow UK nationals short-term visa-free visits of up to 90 days within any 180-day period. The UK will reciprocate by allowing visa-free short-term visits for EU citizens.

The Deal provides a list of permitted activities which may be undertaken during a short term business visit.

The provision within the Deal is conditional on the UK continuing to provide for equal visa-free travel for short-term visits for EU citizens of all EU Member States, without discriminating between nationals of different Member States.

Other business activities

In addition to short-term business visitors, the Deal makes provision for the movement of contractual service providers, independent professionals, intra-corporate transferees and business visitors for establishment purposes. There are slightly different provisions for each, depending on the Member State. These provisions are set out in the Deal but advice would need to be taken on the provisions in domestic law in the relevant the Member State. 

On the whole, the UK considers that there are provisions for these categories within the UK's existing Immigration Rules, subject to some adjustments. EU contractual service providers and independent professionals are now within the provisions for temporary workers, intra-corporate transferees are within the intra-company route and provisions for business visitors for establishment purposes are within the Immigration Rules for visitors and those for starting a business in the UK.

What about long-term stays?

UK nationals intending to stay in an EU Member State for over 90 days will need to look to the provisions for third country nationals under EU law and the national laws of the relevant Member State for the required purpose e.g. work, business activity, research, study or training. They would need to satisfy the relevant immigration conditions to secure a visa for that country.

EU citizens intending to move to the UK for anything other than a business visit will need to comply with the applicable Immigration Rules. On the whole the Immigration Rules for working in the UK fall under the Skilled Worker route. Freeths Immigration can guide you through these requirements. 

There have also be changes this week to the Temporary Worker International Agreement Worker route which brings EU nationals in scope of this route. This provides a route for people who are coming to the UK for a short to medium term professional services assignment with a British company. 

This route is available when there is a services treaty in place between the UK and a given country or block of countries. The Deal includes the services treaty between the UK and the EU. It covers service sectors, such as accountancy, legal advisory and management consulting. This route requires sponsorship for which a sponsoring UK business would be needed, and provides for stay of a period of 12 months, or for the duration of the contract, whichever is shorter.

The agreement on visa free travel for short term business visits will be welcome news for UK businesses with existing or prospective activities in and across European Member States and for European businesses doing business in the UK. It is however a long way from free movement and for most substantial business activities and employment in the UK visa clearance will be required and specialist advice should be sought. 

Our specialist immigration team is here to help. https://www.freeths.co.uk/legal-services/business-services/business-immigration/