The UK government is set to modify its visitor visa regulations from 31 January 2024, allowing individuals to engage in remote work while visiting the country.

This marks a departure from previous legislation, which made no explicit mention of remote working.

While the guidance notes still emphasise that the primary purpose of the visit should be a permitted activity rather than remote work, immigration officials are now tasked with assessing the applicant’s intention to undertake specific activities rather than focusing solely on remote work.

According to the updated legislation, visitors will be permitted to “undertake activities relating to their employment overseas remotely from within the UK, providing this is not the primary purpose of their visit.”

This adjustment is anticipated to open the door to what has been dubbed ‘work-cations’—a combination of work and vacation.

Shifting work patterns

Charlotte Wills, a partner at immigration law firm Fragomen, sees this regulation as a recognition of shifting work patterns since the COVID-19 pandemic. She stated, “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 believes that these changes will have positive effects on both business and tourism, enabling thousands of visitors, including those from the EU, to engage in limited remote work during their stay. She also expressed curiosity about whether other European countries would follow suit in adapting their immigration frameworks.

However, not all perspectives on these changes are unanimously positive. Charlie Gregson, country head UK at freelance platform Malt, welcomes the move but believes it falls short. She emphasised, “It’s a good first step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough.”

Greater clarity is needed

Gregson calls for greater clarity in the guidelines, questioning whether it’s acceptable to actively work for extended periods or if the legislation merely accommodates checking and responding to emails. She highlights the potential for misinterpretation, which could lead to either overly restrictive or confusing outcomes for those wanting to work while on vacation or visiting family 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,” Gregson concludes, underscoring the importance of flexibility in the evolving landscape of work.

 

 

 

 

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Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.