The coronavirus pandemic’s effect on travel has meant that the full impact of Brexit on business travel has yet to be felt. As lockdown restrictions ease and business travel opens up again, organisations will need to understand the impact of Brexit on business travel between the UK and EU and help their people navigate any visa requirements for remote deployments.
UK nationals are no longer allowed to work in the EU without a visa. The EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) sets out provisions for business visitors, contractual service suppliers, independent professionals, and intra-corporate transferees between the UK and the EU. Each EU member state and the UK have specified provisions or restrictions to shape their implementation of each of the TCA routes.
UK business visitors to the EU
Generally, UK business visitors to the EU can attend meetings, undertake market research, participate in classroom-based training or observation, purchase goods and services, take orders, negotiate sales, and sign contracts. UK nationals are allowed to spend up to 90 days in the EU within any six-month period; both business and holiday visits will count toward this limit.
Routes for working in the EU
However, business visitors cannot work in the EU. Where an individual will be working in the EU, they might be able to enter as contractual service suppliers, independent professionals, or intra-corporate transferees. These routes all require a visa, and the TCA sets out a framework and basic eligibility and conditions for each of them.
The contractual service supplier route is appropriate for employees of UK organisations that do not have a presence in the EU, who will be working on contracts of 12 months or less. Contractual service suppliers must have at least three years of professional experience and a university degree. They must not be paid from the EU.
Independent professionals are UK self-employed service providers who do not have a presence in the EU and will be working on contracts of 12 months or less. Contractual service suppliers must have at least six years of professional experience and a university degree.
The intra-corporate transferee route facilitates the transfer of UK employees who are managers, specialists, or trainees to EU companies in the same corporate group. Managers and specialists need at least one year of service with the UK employer and can work in the EU for up to three years. Trainees need at least six months of service and can work in the EU for up to one year.
Many EU member states offer visa options in addition to business visitors, contractual service suppliers, independent professionals, and intra-corporate transferee routes. For example, some EU countries have visa routes for employees of UK organisations that do have a presence in the EU, such that they can supply a service under contract to a client in that country.
Entering the EU and consequences of illegal entry
UK nationals are not able to enter the EU using e-gates, and vice-versa. Travellers should therefore expect to present their passports to a border officer, who will ask about the nature and duration of the trip. They will expect to see evidence of necessary work permits or visas, insurance and means of subsistence, proof of return/onward journey, etc. Border control officers can access information on an individual’s immigration and criminal history through databases shared between countries.
Potential consequences of illegal entry or illegal working in an EU country include the following:
- being turned away by the carrier or at the border;
- being returned to one’s originating country. Consider the case of the British tradesmen who were deported from Germany in April 2021;
- fines, for example, Italian immigration law dictates a fine of between €5,000 to €10,000 for illegal entry or illegal working;
- being banned from the destination country; and
- future entry or visa applications being scrutinised more closely and so taking longer to process.
Tax, GDPR, and employment law issues should also be taken into account when planning remote deployments.
Given the legal complexity, the potential consequences, and the likelihood of their employees being stopped by border officers, many organisations will need help to support workers’ travel and secure work visas as necessary.