Brexit and Business Immigration - should employers be worried about the implications to business travel from the UK to the EU?

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22 December, 2020

Amy Stokes
Partner & Head of Business Immigration

With the end of the transition period now only days away, we have experienced a multitude of queries from employers regarding employees who frequently travel from the UK to the EU to conduct business for them and the additional requirements that they face in the new year.

With negotiations between the UK and the EU still ongoing there is a lot of uncertainty over what might be agreed in the coming days.

What is clear is that from 1 January onwards, UK nationals will no longer have an automatic right to move to work within the European Union and similarly, EU nationals hoping to come to work in the UK will also no longer benefit from this right. Instead, we will need to comply with the member state in questions entry requirements and may need to apply for a visa or work permit in accordance with that country's existing immigration rules.

It is important to bear in mind that the individual country's immigration rules can be quite stringent and therefore it is important to try to get to grips with the requirements far in advance of the employee travelling to the member state. For example, in Sweden there are additional obligations on the employer in the country wanting to employ UK workers. There are minimum periods for which the position must be advertised internally and they must also consult with the trade union relevant to their field before the employee can apply for their permit.

While the rules will depend on the EU27 country being visited, visa-free travel will generally only be possible for UK passport holders for a limited number of permitted business activities. This is likely to cover business meetings with colleagues, clients, or customers, attending conferences and exhibitions connected with trade, industry or work and providing services (even with a charity). However, even in these circumstances, travel will be limited to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa.

Therefore, the proposed activities of the individual will be the key factor in ascertaining whether visa free travel is possible including the duration or frequency of travel.

The advice from the UK government is that new passport and border requirements are likely to apply and therefore, employees should be made aware that they may be asked to:

  • confirm the purpose and anticipated duration for the trip and be required to show a return or onward ticket;
  • demonstrate suitable accommodation and funds available for the trip;
  • have at least 6 months left to run their passport at the time of entry into the EU; and
  • they should also be prepared to have their trips monitored to ensure they stay within the limit of no more than 90 days in each 180 days in the EU. The day count applies on a rolling basis and across the Schengen area as a whole. The 26-country Schengen area includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland as well as all of the EU27 except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania.

To add to the uncertainty, a growing list of countries, both within the European Union and outside, have banned UK arrivals because of concerns about the spread of a new variant of coronavirus. Individual countries have implemented the ban for different periods of time and have said that this will be reviewed in intervals. It is essential that employers and employees review this frequently before traveling due to the fast-changing nature of the situation and to avoid employees being refused entry.

We have been working with a number of clients on the new business immigration requirements. The implications of the changes for business travel should not be underestimated, but should be factored in now to avoid issues as we move towards the end of the transition period.

For more information contact Amy Stokes in our Employment & HR department via email or phone on 0333 207 1157. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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