Visas Available to Non European Economic Area (EEA) Individuals Allowing Them to Work in the UK

Background 

This article summarises some of the UK immigration options available to individuals to conduct business and/or work in the UK. For information on the Tier 1 (Investor), the former Tier 1 (Entrepreneur), Start-up, and Innovator visa categories please see: Information Note 580

Short-Term Business Trips 

It is possible to visit the UK and conduct business of a limited nature for up to 6 months in the UK. 

Individuals who are citizens of certain countries such as India, South Africa, and Turkey are considered “Visa nationals”. They are required to apply and pay for a Business Visitor visa. On the other hand, “Non-visa nationals” such as those from Australia, St Kitts and Nevis, and the US do not normally need to apply for a Business Visitor visa prior to coming to the UK. 

There are a number of restrictions on what business visitors can and cannot do. For instance, they cannot work (paid or unpaid), but they can usually: attend meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews; carry out site visits and inspections; and provide training. 

Global Talent visa 

This new immigration category replaced the former Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa category on 20 February 2020. 

Individuals endorsed by approved bodies as a recognised or emerging leader can apply for the Global Talent visa to come to the UK to live and work. There are generally very limited restrictions and individuals can work for any employer and/or be self-employed. 

Visas can be granted for up to 5 years and can be extended. It may be possible for individuals to apply for indefinite leave to remain (“ILR”), essentially permanent settlement in the UK, after 3 or 5 years depending on the basis of endorsement. 

Tier 2 Sponsor Licence 

UK based organisations can “sponsor” individuals to work in the UK if they have an appropriate type of sponsor licence such as under the Tier 2 (General) and/or Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) sub-categories. 

Currently, a sponsor licence is valid for 4 years and there are numerous duties and responsibilities. For instance, there must be a genuine vacancy which needs to be filled and the Home Office set out a list of jobs which are amenable to sponsorship as well as minimum salary thresholds which must be paid. 

Sponsored individuals are usually restricted to working in the specific role they have been sponsored to undertake for their sponsoring company. Depending on the specific type of Tier 2 visa they hold, they may be able to change employer in the UK though they cannot usually be self-employed. 

The below table sets out some of the differences between the Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) subcategories. It is worth noting that we expect that new rules will be in place from January 2021. 

Tier 2 (General)Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer)
Required to advertise?Yes, if not exemptNo
Minimum salary?Usually £30,000Usually £41,500
Maximum time in this visa category?6 years5 years, or 9 years (depending on salary)
Possible to apply for ILR?Yes, usually after 5 yearsNot usually


Representative of an Overseas Business Visa (Sole Rep Visa)
 

It is possible for genuinely active overseas businesses to send a senior member of staff to the UK to set-up its first UK establishment. The individual cannot be a major shareholder. 

Once in the UK, the individual must remain employed by the business and cannot be self-employed. The business can recruit from the resident labour market but may also be able to recruit from outside the UK, for instance if the UK business holds an appropriate Tier 2 sponsor licence. 

Initial visas are usually valid for 3 years, and can be extended for 2 years. Individuals living and working in the UK under this visa category are usually eligible to apply for ILR after 5 years. 

Other Options 

Other UK immigration options may be available for individuals wishing to come to the UK to work and/or set-up or run their own business, depending on their specific individual circumstances. 

Additional Information

If you require additional information on this topic, please speak to Vincent Chung at the Dixcart office in the UK: advice@dixcartlegal.com or to your usual Dixcart contact. 

This Information Note was first published in December 2018 and updated in March 2020.

The data contained within this document is for general information only. No responsibility can be accepted for inaccuracies. Readers are also advised that the law and practice may change from time to time. This document is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute accounting, legal or tax advice. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.