Travelling to and from the EU
Freedom of movement came to an end on 31 December 2020. Business travel has changed from 1 January 2021.
The UK has made changes to its immigration rules which came into force on 1 January 2021. This affects travel to and from the EU as well as living and working. These affect both EU citizens and other non-UK nationals. This guide is only relevant to EU citizens in the UK.
Under the new Free Trade Agreement there will be visa-free travel for business and leisure purposes: 90 days in any 180 day period, but paid activities will be restricted. Local employment laws will apply, a work permit may be necessary, and there may be requirements on professional qualifications (as the post-Brexit trade deal has ended the mutual recognition of professional qualifications), depending on the specific EU member state requirements.
In most cases, short-term business visitors can attend meetings in an EU country under visa-free travel. However, they will have to check for each country they do business in, which activities are allowed before they start carrying out work. These could include research, training, trade fairs and exhibitions, sales, purchasing, after-sales services, tourism, translation and interpretation.
New rules on immigration also affect Employment and Employees in the UK: see our separate Guide Note on this subject.
- Businesses must make sure that anyone travelling to work in EU member states has the correct visa(s) and any other travel documents. Similarly, any non-UK national travelling from the EU to visit your business (for example for meetings, or to carry out contract work) must have the correct visa(s),
- Under the post-Brexit trade deal visa exemptions for short-term tourism and business visits allow visa-free travel for business and leisure purposes: 90 days in any 180 day period, but paid activities will be restricted. Local employment laws could apply, a work permit may be necessary, and there may be requirements on professional qualifications, as no mutual recognition of professional qualifications has been agreed under the new trade deal.
- Before going to the EU, you must also check whether there are any other regulations to follow. In most cases, though, short-term business visitors will be able to have business meetings in an EU country without a visa. But you must check, before you go, for each country that you do business in, exactly what is allowed.
- If you or your staff visit an EU country, the local employment laws and immigration laws will apply. This may include you having to pay social security contributions or other local taxes.
- If you open an office in the EU, some EU countries impose conditions on investors and owners from outside the EU. Refer to our longer guide for links to specific country guides and further government guidance from both the UK and EU governments.
- Check the UK and EU guidance on travel including passport requirements, roaming, insurance, driving licence or permit, and so on.
- Anyone visiting your business from outside EU member states will still need to have the correct visa(s) or other documents. That is outside the scope of this guide note.
- Find out more about business and staff travel in the EU in our online guide.
- Need help understanding the changes for your business? Book an appointment with one of our business advisers.
- View our glossary of Brexit terminology.
- Visit the EU Transition Business Resource Hub to browse our full range of guides and support.
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