British citizens travelling to the EU for business: What employers need to know

As the international community hopefully nears returning to more normal levels of travel, UK employers will need to know the rules for British citizens travelling to the EU for business.

Many employers have been focusing on the UK’s new immigration system and the rules for EU citizens who wish to visit and work in the UK.
As the international community hopefully nears returning to more normal levels of travel, UK employers will need to know the rules for British citizens travelling to the EU for business.   
Our KN Global service has a trusted network of specialist co-counsel throughout the EU and can provide bespoke EU immigration advice. 

Why are visa rules now an issue for British citizens travelling to the EU?

The UK left the EU in January 2020 and the transition period ended at 11 pm on 31 December 2020.  
In accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement, British citizens who were resident in an EU member state before the end of the transition period will be able to apply for a residence document confirming their on-going right to live and work in the relevant country.  Such British citizens should have until the end of the grace period on 30 June 2021 to apply.
For all British citizens arriving in an EU member state (or the EEA or Switzerland) from 1 January 2021, they will not have a right of free movement and so need to be aware of the local visa requirements in the destination EU country. 
British citizens do not need a visa to visit or work in Ireland.

Do British citizens need a visa to visit the EU, such as a Schengen visa?

No.  British citizens visiting the EU can do so visa-free.  The UK is not on the list of countries whose nationals must apply for a Schengen visa before travelling to the EU.  
British citizens are treated by the EU as third-country nationals, in the same way as for example US citizens.  British citizens visiting the EU cannot any longer use the airport lanes/queues for EU citizens. 
British citizens are only able to make short term visa-free trips to the EU for certain activities as a visitor, such as permitted business visitor activities and tourism. 
If a British citizen will be working in the EU, they will need to apply for a work permit before travelling. 

What is the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS)?

In 2022 the EU plans to launch ETIAS.  This will be for visitors to the EU who are not from EU countries and so will include the UK.  British citizens will need to apply online and pay a fee.  ETIAS will be a visa-waiver scheme, much the same as the US ESTA.  
It does not mean a visa will be required but it does mean there is a pre-travel requirement and that travellers will be screened for security purposes.  Some travellers may not qualify to use the ETIAS visa-waiver scheme and so may need to apply for a visitor visa, such as if they have a criminal conviction.

How long does a British citizen’s passport need to be valid for to travel to the EU?

A British citizen’s passport must be valid for at least 6 months before its expiration date. It is important to note that if the holder has renewed their passport before the previous one expired, extra months may have been added to the expiry date. Any extra months on the passport beyond 10 years may not count towards the 6 months required for certain countries. 

Are the visa rules the same for all EU countries?

There are common visa rules across the Schengen Area but each EU member state also has its own visa requirements for third-country nationals.  This means the rules are not exactly the same for each member state and so advice needs to be taken in advance of travel. 

What can a British citizen do in an EU country as a business visitor? Does the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement assist?

As above, it is necessary to check the relevant local rules for the country(ies) of travel. 
Before the end of last year, British citizens were able to travel on the basis of free movement throughout the EU and so it was not necessary to distinguish between what was business visitor activity and work.  Care now needs to be taken to ensure that where a British citizen is entering the EU without a prior visa, they are only carrying out permitted business visitor activity.      
The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) does assist in setting out a list of agreed short term business visitor activities which are permitted, including:
Meetings and consultations.  Attending meetings or conferences, or engaging in consultations with business associates.
Research and design.  Technical, scientific and statistical researchers conducting independent research or research.
Marketing research.  Market researchers and analysts conducting research or analysis.
Training seminars.  To receive training in techniques and work practices, provided the training received is confined to observation, familiarisation and classroom instruction only.
Trade fairs and exhibitions.  Attending a trade fair for the purpose of promoting the company or its products or services.
Sales.  Representatives of a supplier of services or goods taking orders or negotiating the sale of services or goods or entering into agreements to sell services or goods for that supplier, but not delivering goods or supplying services themselves.  Short-term business visitors cannot engage in making direct sales to the general public.
Purchasing.  Buyers purchasing goods or services for an enterprise, or management and supervisory personnel, engaging in a commercial transaction.
After-sales or after-lease service.  Installers, repair and maintenance personnel and supervisors, possessing specialised knowledge essential to a seller's contractual obligation, supplying services or training workers to supply services pursuant to a warranty or other service contract incidental to the sale or lease of commercial or industrial equipment or machinery, including computer software.
Commercial transactions.  Management and supervisory personnel and financial services personnel (including insurers, bankers and investment brokers) engaging in a commercial transaction.
Tourism personnel.  Tour and travel agents, tour guides or tour operators attending or participating in conventions or accompanying a tour.
Translation and interpretation.  Translators or interpreters supplying services.
As stated in the TCA, some member states have declared non-conforming measures and so not all of the agreed listed activities will be allowed in all EU countries.  Some of the activities will be permissible in some member states and not in others.  There is also the practical reality that some EU countries will not have brought the rules within the TCA into their own local regulations and website information. 
It is therefore important to take advice to ensure that the intended short-term business visitor activities are covered and a prior work permit is not required. 
The UK government has created a useful resource setting out the permitted business activities for some EU countries. 

How long can a British citizen stay in an EU country as a business visitor? 

In accordance with the TCA a British citizen may stay in the EU for up to a total of 90 days in any six-month period. 
There is a useful Schengen Area calculator for keeping a record of the days. 

What’s the difference between being a business visitor and needing a work permit?

As above, it is not possible to generalise on the rules which are applicable to all EU member states.  We suggest that for each scenario you take relevant advice.  
However, as a starting point, if the intended activities are not on the above mentioned short-term business visitor list from the TCA, a prior work permit is likely to be required. 
There is not a uniform work permit application for the EU.  Each member state has its own local rules which will need to be followed. 

Where can I find more information on work permit applications to the EU?

The UK government’s useful resource also sets out the work permit requirements for some EU countries. 
Whilst this is useful, we strongly suggest that you seek advice in relation to your employees’ circumstances and intended activities in the EU member state(s). 
The TCA includes other options for British citizens working in the EU.  Our article on the provisions within the TCA sets out various options including for intra-company transfers, independent professionals and contractual service suppliers. 

What can employers do to prepare for the new visa rules?

UK employers need to be familiar with the rules for British citizens travelling to the key EU countries for your business.  Rather than waiting until there is an increase in urgent business travel, we suggest planning ahead so your business is as prepared as possible.
It is important to not breach the rules as this risks employees working illegally, refusal of entry at the border, problems with applying for visas to other countries and potential reputational damage.


If you have any queries in relation to the above or any other immigration matter, please get in touch with a member of the immigration team.

Latest blogs and news

Windrush Day 2022

The 22nd June is now officially the day we “celebrate” Windrush. As I have written previously, it’s also to recognise the catastrophic mistake made by the government when they wrongly denied people the right to stay in the UK. The Windrush Report was commissioned to investigate how the immigration services managed to make such a huge mistake and gave recommendations with a view to those mistakes not happening again. I would argue that the government doesn’t seem to have incorporated the recommendations from the report, which is incredibly disappointing.



Supporting Ukraine: Kingsley Napley is organising a Ukrainian lunch to support British Schools and Homes for Ukrainians

It has now been over two months since Russia launched its military invasion of Ukraine. Since then, thousands of people have died, towns and cities have been destroyed and 13 million people have been displaced. As a result, people around the World have mobilised to help in any way they can and Kingsley Napley also wants to play its part.

The High Potential Individual visa – a route with… high potential?

Launching on 30 May 2022, the High Potential Individual (“HPI”) visa will be one of several new immigration routes introduced by the Home Office this year. Designed to attract “the brightest and best” to the UK, the HPI visa appears to form part of the Government’s wider plan to deliver an ‘elite points based system’, as announced in their ‘Build Back Better: Plan for Growth’, to ensure the UK maintains its status as a “leading international hub for emerging and disruptive technologies”.

The Ukrainian Temporary Protection Scheme in the EU: Comparisons with the UK

On 24 February 2022 Russian armed forces invaded Ukraine. At the time of writing, hostilities are on going. According to UNHCR over 4 million people have fled Ukraine mainly heading west towards and into EU Member States. On 4 March 2022, the EU opened a temporary protection scheme for Ukrainians (and others who were resident in Ukraine and had to flee) using a directive which was adopted in 2001 but had never been used since. In this blog we will examine the scope of the scheme in light of both the Decision which opened it and the Commission’s operational guidelines issued a few weeks later to clarify Member States obligations. The purpose is to understand what those fleeing Ukraine can expect to receive by way of assistance in the EU and compare the UK’s scheme with it.

Change of Plan? The House of Lords’ apposite amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill

As Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II has unfolded in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the House of Lords has finalised its reporting stage review of the Nationality and Borders Bill.

A lack of compassion. The UK’s disappointing response to fleeing Ukrainian refugees

The UK government’s so far meagre UK immigration options for Ukrainians are set out in our FAQs.

Immigration alert: Adjusted Covid right to work checks extended (yet again) to 30 September 2022

Following our last alert of 19 January 2022, we have a positive update for you on right to work checks. 

Our previous alert confirmed the video call Covid temporary adjusted right to work check process would end on to 5 April 2022. However, in a welcome development the guidance has been updated this week confirming an extension of the adjusted right to work check process until 30 September 2022.

UK says it’s not all about the money. After the closure of the Tier 1 (Investor) category – what options are there for potential investors?

The Tier 1 (Investor) category was abruptly chopped out of the UK’s immigration system for new applicants at 4pm on 17 February. After previous and on-going reviews, in what appears to have been a hot-headed moment responding to political tensions with Russia, the category has been closed to new applicants. Deadlines (called ‘sunset clauses’) of 17 February 2026 for extension applications and 17 February 2028 for settlement (indefinite leave to remain) applications have also been introduced for those already holding investor status.

Will the Scale-up visa stand-up to the hype?

As we look ahead to the immigration changes on the horizon for 2022, one big expectation is an expansion of the visa routes available to those looking to work in the UK. Such changes are very welcome given the UK’s on-going demand for top talent. Among those hotly anticipated additions, the Scale-up visa stands out. Here we look at it a little closer and consider what we might expect from this visa option.


The Home Office’s new “early ILR concession”

Progressive developments in immigration law have become a rare phenomenon, so the Home Office’s new policy – which halves the route to settlement for certain young people who have resided in the UK for more than half of their lives – is welcome news.

How should panels deal with past allegations made by a complainant?

Conviction cases are ordinarily relatively straightforward for regulators. If a registrant is convicted of a criminal offence, the regulator will generally treat the fact of the conviction as proof the offence was committed – and take action to protect the public accordingly. See Achina v General Pharmaceutical Council [2021] EWHC 415 (Admin) for an example of the difficulties registrants face when they attempt to ‘go behind’ the facts of a conviction.

Why it’s time for an MBA visa

With the UK Chancellor’s budget announcement tomorrow, many UK businesses will be hoping for some good news on the recruitment front to help alleviate current skills shortages across a range of industries. They are likely to get short shrift. The Government has repeatedly pushed back on requests for sector specific carve-outs to deal with post-Brexit recruitment blocks. Instead, its relentless focus has been on the much more popular and palatable high-skilled immigration, attracting the “brightest and the best” with a focus on innovation, research and technology and the exceptionally talented.   

Nationality and Borders Bill shows questionable priorities

The Nationality and Borders Bill, the government’s signature piece of legislation on immigration, shows questionable priorities at a time when the UK is in the midst of a wider immigration crisis.

Why it’s time for youth mobility visas for EU nationals

The Youth Mobility Scheme allows employers to access younger workers from countries such as India and Iceland for two years. With skills shortages afflicting critical sectors, now might be the time for the government to consider a youth visa agreement with the EU.

Covid and post-Brexit immigration rules serve up a recipe for disaster in the hospitality sector

From being the centrepiece of England’s post-Covid recovery with ‘eat out to help out’, the hospitality sector is now struggling to rebuild after lockdowns, furlough and rising food prices. At the same time many restaurants, cafes and pubs are coming up against the hard realities of a post-Brexit immigration policy and discovering what it means for their business.

(In)definitely maybe – when indefinite doesn’t quite mean indefinite

You have come to the end of your long immigration journey, paid thousands of pounds to UKVI to obtain permission to enter, permission to stay and then, finally, indefinite leave to remain (ILR) (also called settlement). When obtaining ILR, individuals may understandably breathe a sigh of relief – it’s over! For many who, for various reasons, choose not to naturalise or register as British, ILR can provide adequate status to live and work in the UK permanently.

What next for EU citizens in the UK?

The vast majority of EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens who were UK residents by the end of last year were able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme by the 30 June 2021 deadline. Applying to the EU Settlement Scheme meant that an EU citizen could stay in the UK for the long term.

Immigration alert: Adjusted Covid right to work checks extended again to 5 April 2022

As mentioned in our recent alert of 18 June 2021, the video call Covid temporary adjusted right to work process was due to end today.  However, at the eleventh hour the Home Office has announced the adjusted right to work process is extended again to 5 April 2022.

KN Global Immigration Update – June and July 2021

Our latest global immigration update on key changes to the immigration rules in global jurisdictions includes Bulgaria, France, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, the USA, the Philippines, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Missed the EU Settlement Scheme deadline? FAQs on what to do next

The deadline to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (“EUSS”) was 30 June 2021. But for those who missed it – all is not lost. The Home Office will continue to accept applications from individuals with ‘reasonable grounds’ for having missed the EUSS cut-off point. In this blog, we explore what might constitute a ‘reasonable ground’ and consider the legal implications for those who have fallen short of the deadline.

Skip to content Home About Us Insights Services Contact Accessibility