The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement – the Immigration provisions

The EU – UK’s trade and Cooperation Agreement (‘The Agreement’) was ratified by the UK Parliament on 30 December 2020 has been applied provisionally since 01 January 2021 pending ratification by the European Parliament.

The Agreement sets out the Parties commitments to the movement of the following groups of people with the stated aim to provide legal certainty and administrative clarity needed in order to continue engaging in business activity and delivering services in the EU from 01 January 2021:

  • short-term business visitors;
  • business visitors for establishment purposes;
  • intra-corporate transferees;
  • contractual service suppliers; and
  • independent professionals.

Specifically, the Parties have agreed:

  • to end freedom of movement of persons between the UK and the EU.
  • to provide for visa-free travel for short term visits in accordance with domestic law.
  • to allow the entry, temporary stay and employment of intra-corporate transferees.
  • not to impose work permits on business visitors for establishment purposes.
  • not to impose market access restrictions (such as economic needs tests) or discriminatory barriers on business persons falling into any of the above categories.
  • the permissible lengths of stay shall be 3 years for managers and specialists, up to one year for trainee employees and up to 90 days within any six-month period of business visitors for establishment purposes.

The Agreement also includes comprehensive measures on transparency and procedural facilitations, with the intended aim of easing the burden on future visa and work permit applicants. It also guarantees that intra-corporate transferees can be accompanied by their partners and dependents when placed abroad, with minimal administrative burdens.

The Withdrawal Agreement remains in place, protecting the rights of EU citizens and UK nationals resident prior to 31 December 2020, and the provisions of the Agreement do not change that.

Statement of changes to the immigration rules

On 31 December 2020 a statement of changes to the Immigration Rules was presented to Parliament in order to implement commitments that were made as a result of the UK – EU Trade deal and the UK-Swiss agreement and to amend minor drafting errors made within the previous changes.

The changes take immediate effect and involve the following;

  • Amendment of the Visitor rules to implement the United Kingdom’s commitments on short-term business visitors, including adding the following as permitted activities:
    • Visitors will be able to conduct market research or analysis in the UK for their employment overseas
    • Researchers will be able to conduct independent research in the UK for their employment overseas
    • Translators and/or interpreters will be able to translate / interpret in the UK as an employee of an enterprise overseas
  • Changes to Appendix T5 (Temporary Worker) International Agreement Worker to implement commitments on contractual service suppliers and independent professionals in the Temporary
  • Permit contractual service suppliers and independent professionals who are EU nationals to stay in the UK for up to 12 months and those that are Swiss nationals to stay in the UK for up to 12 months in any 24 month period, in order to fulfil a service supply contract in specific sectors with the UK final consumer.

What this means for you?

These changes in addition to the end of freedom of movement mean that employers should review their existing business travel guidance and ensure that they have robust systems and processes in place to manage their business travel programmes.

Contractual service suppliers and independent professionals should speak to their UK final consumers and ensure they are aware of the new time limitations. It is also recommended that you seek further guidance to establish whether your sector qualifies for these extended time periods.

UK based service suppliers and independent professionals providing services to the EU and Switzerland should also seek further guidance to ensure they are aware of any reciprocal arrangements being put in place to temporarily govern the movement of natural persons to supply services under the terms of the agreements.

There is increased importance in undertaking pre-travel assessments of any planned travel from 01 January and employers should ensure that employees are travelling on the right basis and are not placing you, themselves, and your clients at risk of illegal working penalties.

In planning future travel between the UK and the EU you and your employees should be aware of the following:

  • UK and EU citizens will not be required to obtain a visa before travelling provided they are undertaking a short term visit for a permissible business purpose.
  • UK citizens travelling to the EU will need to ensure their passport is valid for at least 6 months from date of arrival.
  • The permissible length of stay for short term visits will be for a period of up to 90 days in any six-month period.
  • Exceptions to the general rules may apply for contractual service suppliers, independent professionals and business visitors for establishment purposes
  • Individuals who will be working in the UK / EU will be required to apply for permission to work. The requirements for work permission are governed by the national laws of UK / each Member State.

How we can help

Our immigration team at Mazars are here to help you plan for the coming months and can provide support with your business travel programme and in understanding how the UK – EU trade deal could affect your business. If you have any questions or queries relating to anything in this update please get in touch via the button below.

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