UK Business Visa Requirements

business visa requirements

IN THIS SECTION

To come to the UK for business, you have to ensure you have the required permission. Of the UK visa options available, you will need to ensure you apply for a route that you are eligible for and which permits you to carry out your planned business activities.

In this guide, we outline the main immigration routes and UK business visa requirements for foreign nationals.

 

Business visitor visa

If you want to come to the UK to undertake certain business activities on a short-term basis, you may be eligible to apply for a standard visitor visa. You can also use this visa for the purposes of tourism and leisure at the same time, such as visiting friends and family, although you will be required to set out the main purpose of your trip to the Home Office.

The rules relating to the standard visitor visa are set out under Appendix V of the Immigration Rules. These determine the UK business visa requirements for this category, including a long list of permitted and prohibited activities.

 

Permitted activities

Permitted business activities under the standard visitor visa include:

  • Attending meetings, conferences, seminars or interviews
  • Giving a one-off or short series of talks, provided these are not organised as commercial events and will not make a profit for the organiser
  • Negotiating, signing deals and contracts
  • Attending trade fairs for promotional work only, provided there is no direct selling
  • Carrying out site visits and inspections
  • Gathering information for employment overseas
  • Being briefed on the requirements of a UK based customer, provided any work for the customer is done outside of the UK

As an employee of an overseas-based company, you are also allowed to undertake the following corporate or intra-corporate activities:

  • Advising, consulting, trouble-shooting or providing training
  • Sharing skills and knowledge on a specific internal project with UK employees of the same corporate group, provided that no work is carried out directly with clients
  • Carrying out regulatory or financial audits as an internal auditor at a UK branch of the same group of companies as the overseas employer

There are also additional sector-specific activities that are permitted under a standard visitor visa, including obtaining funding to start, take over, join or run a business in the UK, albeit prohibiting actually establishing or running a business.

 

Prohibited activities

In addition to establishing or running a business as a self-employed person, there are also various other activities that are prohibited under the standard visitor visa. These include the following:

  • Taking employment in the UK
  • Doing work for an organisation or business in the UK
  • Doing a work placement or internship
  • Directly selling to the public
  • Providing goods and services

 

Eligibility

To be eligible for a standard visitor visa, you must satisfy the following UK business visa requirements:

  • You will leave the UK at the end of your visit
  • You have enough money without recourse to public funds to support and accommodate yourself
  • You can pay for your return or onward journey
  • You have proof of any business activities you want to undertake in the UK, as permitted by the rules

 

It is inherent within these requirements that you are genuinely seeking entry for a purpose that is permitted by the visitor route and that you will not undertake any prohibited activities. Please note that if you are being paid by a UK company to visit as an expert in your profession, you should apply instead for what’s known as a permitted paid engagement visa.

Under this specific type of visa you can undertake a range of paid activities, including taking part in a selection panel as a highly qualified academic or giving lectures at a higher education institution, or arts or research organisation.

To be eligible for a permitted paid engagement visa you must satisfy the following UK business visa requirements:

  • You are 18 or over
  • You are visiting the UK for no more than 1 month
  • You will leave the UK at the end of your visit
  • You have enough money without recourse to public funds to support and accommodate yourself
  • You can pay for your return or onward journey
  • You are not in transit to a country outside the UK

 

UK business visa application process

An application for a visitor visa must be made online from outside the UK. You will need to provide your passport or valid travel document, together with documentation in support of your intended purpose for travelling to the UK, as well as to prove the other UK business visa requirements under this route.

You may also need to enrol your biometric information, ie; a scan of your fingerprints and digital photograph of your face, at a visa application centre.

The earliest you can apply for a visitor visa is 3 months before you travel, and you should get a decision within around 3 weeks. If your application for a visa is successful, this will usually be granted for a period of up to 6 months.

 

Longer term business visas

If you plans are to stay in the UK for longer than a visitor visa would allow, your options will depend on the type of activity you intend to carry out. Taking professional advice will ensure you secure the relevant permission to come to the UK for work. Potential work visas include:

 

Innovator Founder visa

Following the closure of the Start up visa and Innovator visa, the Innovator Founder visa is now the UK’s primary immigration route for foreign nationals to come to the UK to set up their own business. The application process is in two stages; you will first need to secure endorsement for your business idea from an approved endorsing body. Once you have secured endorsement, you can proceed with the Home Office application for your visa.

The Innovator Founder visa allows you to say in the UK for up to three years, after which you can apply to extend the visa, and you may also become eligible for UK settlement. 

 

Global Business Mobility visas

The Global Business Mobility is a combined category of sponsored routes for overseas businesses seeking to transfer workers to the UK on a temporary basis for a specific purpose. Permissible reasons include establishing a presence in the UK or allowable secondment and graduate trainee placements.

The route comprises five subcategories of sponsored worker visa. Use the following links to find out more about each route’s specific eligibility and application requirements:

 

Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris are experienced UK immigration specialists offering guidance and support to individuals in relation to UK Home Office applications. We can advise on the eligibility criteria you will need to evidence and the process you will need to follow for your application. We can also help where you have dependants applying with you.

For specialist UK immigration advice, contact us.

 

Business visa requirements FAQs

How much do I need to invest to get a UK visa?

The Innovator Founder visa does not stipulate a minimum investment threshold, however, you will need to show when you are applying for endorsement how you intend to develop and fund your business which may require an appropriate level of investment to be made.

What are the documents required for business visa?

Depending on which business visa you are applying for, you may need to provide a business plan in addition to supporting documents for your visa application.

What is required for UK business visa?

You must meet the visa criteria and provide required documents to verify your identity and prove your eligibility, such as your passport or other identity document and bank statements.

How long does it take to get uk business visa?

The Home Office states that applicants should ordinarily receive a decision on their business visa application within 3 weeks of attending the visa application centre.

Last updated: 10 October 2023

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

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