On 26 February the Home Office announced a Statement of Changes in the Immigration Rules, including a consolidation of the visitor categories. The majority of the rules come into effect on 6 April 2015.
There are currently 15 different visitor routes. The new rules limit the number to four: visitor (standard); visitor for marriage or civil partnerships; visitor for permitted paid engagements; and transit visitor. The visitor (standard) route consolidates the following existing routes: general, business, child, sport, entertainer, visitors for 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).
In practice, the change means that under the new rules, visitors can do a number of different activities on a single visa, instead of applying for different visas for each type of activity.
Further, the permitted activities under the visitor category will be extended:
- allowing visitors to carry out incidental unpaid volunteering for up to 30 days at a UK registered charity;
- allowing overseas trainers to deliver training to UK based employees of a multinational company, where the training is part of a contract to deliver global training to the international corporate group;
- allowing UK based organisations, who are not corporate entities, to provide training to overseas visitors on work practices and techniques that are needed for their employment overseas, where this is not readily available in their home country; and
- expanding the existing provision to allow overseas lawyers to advise a UK client on international transactions and litigation, provided they remain paid and employed overseas.
In our experience, there has been a difficulty for overseas business people in understanding the differences between coming here for business (for which they need a visitor visa or no visa) and coming here to work (for which they need a work visa). Unfortunately these changes to the visitor rules, whilst welcome, do not help to sort out the understanding.