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Tourist visa changes will allow remote working

UK legislation has not previously made any reference to remote working

From 31 January 2024, the UK government will ease current visitor visa legislation to allow remote working.

UK legislation has not previously made any reference to remote working, however guidance notes that those visiting the UK can, sensibly, respond to work emails, participate in remote meetings and calls.

Guidance states immigration officials now have to check that the applicant’s main purpose for coming to the UK is to undertake a permitted activity, rather than specifically to work remotely from the UK.

But from 31 January 2024, updated legislation will specifically allow visitors to “undertake activities relating to their employment overseas remotely from within the UK, providing this is not the primary purpose of their visit".

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Charlotte Wills, partner at immigration law firm Fragomen, said this regulation recognises changing working patterns and will open the door to ‘work-cations’.

She said: “This is a significant relaxation of the visitor visa rules and will allow an individual to, for example, tag on to a holiday a one- or two-week work window without having to obtain a work visa.

“It recognises that, since the Covid pandemic, working patterns have changed with many overseas visitors to the UK wishing to combine vacation with work. It is also perhaps recognition that working-from-home patterns are here to stay.”

Wills said the changes are designed to boost business and tourism.

She added: “The rules will be welcomed by the many thousands of visitors to the UK each year including those from the EU, opening the door to remote working, albeit in a limited way. It will be interesting to see if other European countries follow suit with their own immigration frameworks.”

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However, Charlie Gregson, country head UK at freelance platform Malt, said the changes do not go far enough.

She told HR magazine: “It’s a good first step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough. With remote work and digital nomadism not being a novelty anymore, it’s quite upsetting that legislation like this is only coming into force as we enter 2024, almost two years since the pandemic officially ended and forever changed the way we work.”

Gregson called for more clarity on the guidelines: “Is it the norm to work for a few days just to check and respond to emails, or can people actively work for a few weeks?

“If misinterpreted, the legislation might become either too restrictive or confusing for people wanting to work whilst on vacation or visiting their family members in the UK. 

“As we embrace new ways of working and actively encourage people to join the world of freelancing and independent consultancy, there should be more opportunities for people to choose where and how they want to work regardless of borders.”