Doing business in the UK – visa options for senior executives

By Flora Mewies,Ward Hadaway LLP

Immigration requirements are a complex issue for all businesses, intensified by the UK’s departure from the European Union and end to freedom of movement on 31 December 2020. The independence enjoyed by European senior executives to visit the UK for business no longer exists and now any person without a British or Irish passport requires a visa to visit the UK.

For most (but not all) the UK’s visitor visa is the first choice. This allows executives to carry out general business activities including:

  • attending meetings, conferences and seminars;
  • negotiating contracts;
  • giving a one-off talk (not at a commercial event);
  • providing training and advice to their overseas employer’s UK group company.

Applying for this type of visa may seem straightforward but a common pitfall is not suffciently evidencing the reason for the visit. The best way to do this is with a letter from the overseas employer and UK organisation they are visiting detailing the itinerary. Providing evidence of the executive’s financial position is also necessary for a successful application and prebooking return flights helps too.

Crucially, the visitor visa is only short-term and does not let the executive “work” in the UK.

The skilled worker and intra-company transfer visas are often used by senior executives transferring their employment from overseas to the UK, often between companies in the same corporate group. The executive must be “sponsored” to carry out their role by a UK based organisation, registered with UK Visas & Immigration who set minimum requirements for the employment.

On 11 April 2022, the UK will introduce a Global Business Mobility route for overseas businesses seeking to establish a presence in, or transfer staff to, the UK for specific business purposes. There will be 5 routes corresponding to different assignment types including: senior or specialist workers, graduate trainees, service suppliers and secondees.


Flora Mewies

Flora Mewies

GGI member firm
Ward Hadaway LLP
Advisory, Law Firm Services
Newcastle upon Tyne, Leeds, Manchester, UK
T: +44 191 204 4000
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Ward Hadaway is one of the largest fullservice law firms in the north of England, with a reputation for quality, innovation, and a practical approach to meeting their clients’ needs. With 90+ partners and over 425 staff, the firm’s approach of partner-led relationships with all clients is supported by a wealth of expertise and experience.

Flora Mewies is an Employment Partner and the Head of Ward Hadaway’s Immigration Team. This highly knowledgeable and experienced team advises both corporate and individual clients on the full range of UK visas and immigration issues to ensure compliance with the complex immigration system.


Published: Global Mobility Solutions Newsletter, No. 01, Spring 2022 l Photo: Darren Baker - stock.adobe.com

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