Changes to UK’s Visitor Visa rules now in force

UK government proposes reforms to Business Visitor Visas
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Shara Pledger tells HRNews about recent changes to the immigration rules expanding the range of activities visitors are allowed to perform in the UK.

The UK government announced several changes to the immigration laws on December 7, 2023, with the increased income thresholds for skilled workers and those on spouse visas grabbing the most attention. Nevertheless, there were also significant modifications made to the UK Visitor visa category, which broadened the scope of activities that visitors are permitted to perform in the UK starting on January 31, 2024, including paid engagements, research, remote employment, and the supply of legal services.

So, let’s get a view on the changes and how they might affect employers. Shara Pledger is an immigration specialist and earlier she joined me by video-link from Manchester to discuss it. So, is this a welcome development?:

Shara Pledger: “Broadly speaking, yes. The new changes, particularly to the business visitor rules but also some of our other categories that we see both sponsored and unsponsored, are always welcome. Anything that we have that will simplify either application processes or, as we’ve seen, for example, in the business visitor rules, giving more opportunity for people to carry out activity in the UK are a real step in the right direction from what we’ve experienced in the post-Brexit world of more regulation than people were previously used to.”

Joe Glavina: “Are there any sectors of industry which will be particularly affected by these changes, Shara?”

Shara Pledger: “The new rule changes are not sector specific but it’s probably conceivable that certain areas of industry, for example, might benefit more than others. I mean, there are certain areas of industry, for example, that are more likely to have fairly close group companies on mainland Europe, for example, that may find it easier to take advantage of the new intra-company rules that have been introduced into the business visitor restrictions but, generally speaking, this is something that is just aimed at loosening rules across the board without having any particular sector in mind. One sector that will be very happy about these new changes is higher education. There are specific rules that are being introduced that are not necessarily new but are a definite widening from what’s been previously permitted and they relate to things like scientists and researchers and how easily they will find it to come to the UK and carry out they’re clearly very specialist activities here. So, this is a really, really good step in the right direction for something like higher education which, of course, has also seen some of the benefits from changes to things like the global talent route, for example. So, it’s clear that there are certain sectors that the government and the Home Office is finding it easier to be able to assist and support in some of these changes compared to wider industry, effectively, where those curbs on net migration do you place a lot more restriction on what might be introduced.”

Joe Glavina: “Is there anything in the visitor rules changes that caught your eye, that’s worth highlighting?”

Shara Pledger: “One thing that’s very interesting, that isn’t necessarily a rule change but what it’s done is it’s taken a particular section of what was previously ‘visitor guidance’ and has incorporated it into the rules and it relates to remote working. So, it’s always been the case within that visitor guidance that remote working was not prohibited for specifically business visitors, but really for any category of visitor, but there was a general understanding that remote working would be quite limited and it was, as I say, previously only in guidance and it was quite difficult to know exactly what and what was not permitted for individuals to carry out in the UK. What we now see is that express permission in relation to some remote work incorporated into the immigration rules but coupled with that, and probably more importantly, a much more detailed section within the UKVI guidance that talks about remote working. So, what we now see that we didn’t necessarily have before is a bit more of a discourse about what remote working might look like, what’s permitted and what’s not permitted and, crucially, how long somebody might be in the UK while they are carrying out that remote work. So, that is, on the one hand, probably very useful because it does give organisations a greater degree of certainty as to whether or not someone’s activity in the UK will be acceptable but, of course, as soon as you start to introduce a little bit more clarity that hand in hand comes with a bit more restriction, effectively, because now you’ll know for certain that there’s no pushing any of those boundaries, they have been set.”

The Statement of Changes was announced on 7 December with various rules coming into force at various times between 7 December and 31 January which means they are all now in force. To clarify, they don’t cover any of the recently announced headline grabbing policy announcements we’ve seen in recent weeks aimed at cutting net migration, due to take effect in Spring 2024. Those changes will be the subject of a future statement of changes and we’ll cover, and hear again from Shara, when they are published.


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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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