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Changes to the visitor visa rules

Published On: 24 April 2015

On 24 April 2015 new immigration rules will apply in respect of individuals seeking to make an application for a visitor visa to the UK.

A visitor is a person who is coming to the UK for a temporary purpose (for example, as a tourist, to visit family or friends or to carry out a business activity). A visitor needs permission to enter the UK with either a visitor visa or leave to enter. Certain nationalities must apply for a visa whereas other nationalities do not need to apply for a visa such as Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders and Americans to name a few (there are others). Visitors cannot study or work in the UK unless specifically permitted to do so by the visitor rules.

The fifteen different visitor visas will be streamlined down to four visitor routes as follows: 

  1. Visitor (standard)
  2. Visitor for marriage or civil partnership
  3. Visitor for permitted paid engagements
  4. Transit visitor

Changes to the visitor visa will create one single set of rules dealing with requirements for entry and stay in the UK, how to make an application, suitability grounds for refusal and cancellation, eligibility requirements and curtailment.

Which visitor route is appropriate?

The Visitor (standard) route consolidates the previous existing routes of: general, business, child, sport, entertainer, private medical treatment, visitors under the Approved Destination Status (ADS) Agreement with China, prospective entrepreneur, and visitors undertaking clinical attachments; the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test and the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE).

The Visitor for permitted paid engagements visa allows certain individuals (including academics and lecturers, amongst others) to come to the UK for one month and carry out permitted activities as defined in the visitor rules.

The other visitor routes are self explanatory.

Changes to business visitors

One of the most common visitor routes is the business visitor, which will now be under the Visitor (standard) route. The activities which a standard visitor can do for the purposes of business are unchanged and these are:

  • Attend meetings, conferences, seminars or interviews;
  • Give a one off short series of talks or speeches provided not a commercial event;
  • Negotiate deals and sign contracts;
  • Carry out site visit and inspections (also known as fact finding); and
  • Gather information for their employment overseas.

The new rules also allow other activities such as: carrying out unpaid volunteering work for a UK registered charity for up to 30 days, delivering training to a UK based employees of a multi-national company when part of larger global contract for training, and receive training in specific work practices.

UK employers may now also be asked to provide a written undertaking agreeing to accommodate and maintain their visitor for the duration of their stay under the new rules. A Visitor (standard) visa can be granted for up to six months.

What does this mean for employers?

The change means that under the new rules, visitors can do a number of different activities, instead of applying for different visas for each type of activity.

Whilst the changes are a welcomed change to simplify the visitor rules, it is still important that an employer ensures their visitor is fully aware of what they can and cannot do during the duration of their stay. It needs to be made clear to the visitor that they will be unable to work for the UK employer whilst they are in the UK.

If you require any advice on applying for a visitor visa or just the visitor rules generally, please do not hesitate to contact Emma Morgan on 0161 934 3237, or Michael Legge on 0161 934 3199.