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Brexit: changes for short-term travel and longer-term stays

8 January 2021: As an employer or an employee, it is worth understanding how certain provisions on mobility in the new EU-UK Trade Cooperation Agreement will affect business activities.

There have been many difficulties associated with the pandemic, but one silver lining is that the suppression of movement across the UK and parts of Europe allows more time to understand any changes arising from the UK-EU Trade deal regarding business travel. 

ICAEW has put together links and resources to flag some of these changes to businesses. With all of the below, employers and employees are urged to seek expert advice, as there are other immigration considerations to understand, along with obligations such as social security.

Note: ICAEW does not provide legal or immigration advice. This article is for information only.

Short-term travel

Previously, freedom of movement between the UK and the EU meant there was a limited process required for short-term business visits, aside from booking plane tickets and accommodation. 

In many instances, the only change is to be sure you do not exceed the ‘90 days in any 180-day’ period limit and businesses will need to have a method to track this. Business meetings, for example, are allowed without a visa, as are attending conferences, but not directly selling to the public. As with any business travel, it pays to ensure you have your activity, accommodation and return flight details to hand to ensure any questions can be answered with ease, along with the standard six months on your passport and adequate travel and medical insurance.

What is worth checking is whether your activity truly does fit into the visa-free travel. Situations where a visa is required are set out in the agreement through mention or omission in the annexes. They are too numerous to list here, but the table below will help guide which category the trip falls into, and some of the relevant pages to check.

You can find a copy of the trade agreement here.

Instance Definition
Page reference in text
Business visitor for establishment purposes Person in a senior position who is setting up an enterprise in the other country Article SERVIN.4.1 to 4.6 - page 86 onwards

Annex SERVIN-3- page 742 onwards
Contractual service suppliers Someone employed by an organisation which is not established in the other country and has a contract <12 months to supply a service to a final consumer which requires the employee to be there temporarily Article SERVIN.4.1 to 4.6 - page 86 onwards

Annex SERVIN-4- page 747 onwards
Independent professionals A self-employed person supplying a service to a final consumer in the other country with a contract < 12 months and the presence is only temporary Article SERVIN.4.1 to 4.6 - page 86 onwards

Annex SERVIN-4- page 747 onwards
Intra-corporate transferees Someone who has been employed by the company for at least one year (manager or specialist) or six months (trainee employee) and is a temporary transfer to another organisation that is part of the same group in the other country. Definitions of manager, specialist and trainee employee can be found on page 88 of the text. Article SERVIN.4.1 to 4.6 - page 86 onwards

Annex SERVIN-3- page 742 onwards
Short-term business visits Meetings, consultations, conferences, R&D, marketing research, training seminars, trade fairs, to set up sales (but not to deliver them), purchasing, aftersales or after lease service, commercial transactions, tourism personnel, translation and interpretation Article SERVIN.4.1 to 4.6 - page 86 onwards

Annex SERVIN-3- page 742 onwards

What the aforementioned page references also tell you is the qualifications required. For the most part, they relate to a) professional experience, b) degree or relevant qualification and c) the required professional qualification. For accounting, bookkeeping and audit activities there some specifics need to be looked at.

Intra-corporate transferees for trainee employees also have some qualification specifications associated with it, so there is a need to check – not-for-profits must take advice. Some countries also have specific conditions around short-term business travel, for example, Cyprus, Spain and Poland. 

What about longer-term stays?

The deal has not, as far as we know, changed any of the proposed plans regarding settled status. That is, if you are an EU national living in the UK on 31 December, you can apply for settled status. More details can be found here

For UK nationals currently living in the EU, information can be found here, with guidance being given on a country-by-country basis. Both scenarios will have deadlines as to when this must be done by, so if this applies to you then check this as soon as possible.

Those looking to move to the UK after 31 December will need to go through the points-based immigration system, as EU citizens will be treated the same as non-EU citizens. More details can be found here. For UK nationals looking to move to the EU, again this is done on a country-by-country basis and you will need to check the relevant country embassy website.

If you are in an EU country with a visa or permit, your stay will apparently not count towards the 90-day visa-free limit as mentioned above.

The mechanism for longer-term stays from the UK perspective is discussed in this webinar with ICAEW, CIPD and Edwin Coe.

Dhruti Thakrar, Head of Immigration for Edwin Coe LLP says: “The processes for employing staff from overseas under the new points-based system is not as daunting as one might think. It’s worth taking legal advice to initially assist with one’s understanding but this could be a one-off cost, following which you may be able to manage matters yourself.

“The good news is that the minimum salary for sponsoring overseas workers has been reduced substantially to £25,800 (or the minimum amount as stated on the relevant standard occupational code, whichever is higher). Further, the application fee is only £55 for those that wish to employ EEA Nationals under the points-based system, although the immigration health surcharge and skills charge remain. Dependent applications do not benefit from the fee reduction.”

Thakrar also reminds us not to forget Frontier workers, saying that EEA Nationals who have not applied for settled status or pre-settled status but have previously come to work in the UK at least once as consultants prior to 31 December 2020 can apply for Frontier work permits. If this applies to you, there is more information about Frontier work permits here.

What about Ireland?

All of the above does not relate to Ireland. This relationship is covered under the Common Travel Area, and as such UK citizens do not need a visa or a permit to live, work or study in Ireland and vice versa unless they are subject to a deportation order, an exclusion decision or an international travel ban.

How much will a visa cost?

The UK government website details visa costs by country and type here. For information for an EU country, visit the country embassy website.

We welcome any examples from members in the coming months of where there needs to be greater clarity or guidance on short-term travel or longer-term stays – please contact us here. Any questions should still be directed to Member Enquiries. 

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