This page caters for our corporate South African clients, that are primarily looking to visit the UK on behalf of their SA company.

More details of the UK business visitor visa, in terms of costs, processing times and permitted activities can be found on the following pages:

Visa Technicalities

Can I conduct work in the UK on behalf of SA employer?

We find that a common misunderstanding (happens daily with our corporate clients) in these business related visitor visa cases is that the concept of “work in the UK”.

The term is quite a sensitive immigration terms and to address this, it is best to understand the definition of “UK employment”.

If a South African is paid a salary in Pounds by a UK company for work done in the UK, they fall under the definition of UK employment. If however a South African is paid a salary in Rands by a South African company for work done in the UK, they fall under the definition of SA employed.

It is important to note that the UK’s business visitor visa strictly prohibits UK employment.

Therefore, the key in these applications is determining who employs who. Often, we have UK companies employ (engage a contract) with SA based firms, who then send a consultant (South African) to conduct work in the UK for the UK based company. In these cases, it’s a little tough for the SA consultant to answer questions at the border “what are you here to do?”.

The consultant has to be careful not to say “I am here to work for a UK company”. This would be a breach of their visitor visa conditions.

The key to meeting the visa criteria is to understand that there is a difference in intent to work in the UK versus an intent to conduct business related activities in the UK. More specific details of permitted activities are listed in the last question below.

UK visa processing time (earliest permitted time to apply)

The ECO (Entry Clearance Official)’s in Pretoria issue permission for a minimum set period of 6 months. This permission is granted with set start and set end date.

This means that whether you are going to visit the UK for 48 hours or if you are visiting the UK for 3 weeks, the British government are going to give a minimum permission to enter the country for a set 6 month period.

This permission is granted with a set start date and a set expiry date.

With the above set dates in mind, it is important to note the timing of a visa submission (which is the timing when an applicant can apply for a visa) needs to be within 3 months of the applicants expected departure date.

The reason for this 3 month requirement is simple. The ECO has so many factors to take into consideration in each visa application. The last thing they are concerned about is the timing of the applicants departure date. Therefore, once the ECO has seen that their security requirements are met and that the applicant will most likely honor the visa conditions, they simply want to award the visa.

What happens in reality is that the ECO’s make the set start date of the visa to be the date that they award the visa. This impacts applicants who apply more than 3 months before their departure date. Hence the ECO’s insist that South African apply within 3 months before departure date.

UK visa processing time (latest permitted time to apply)

Based on our dealings with corporate travelers, 8 out of 10 cases have a last minute meeting that arises. In these cases, we find that most clients opt for the 5 working days processing time (based on after visa submission at the application center processing times). The motivation for this is that this option is the more affordable (and therefore more popular) solution that we generally represent cases with.

The standard processing time for all visitor visas is 15 working days (3 weeks).
At this stage, it is important to note that Move Up’s representation does not facilitate faster turnaround times. Rather Move Up’s value added service relates to making sure applicants get their visas first time round.

Move Up is well versed in the operating procedures and often help navigate our clients to yield the most efficiently timed applications.

UK’s business visitor visas Permitted activities

UK’s business visitor visa makes provision for the following permitted activities:

    • South Africans looking to visit the UK (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) for business related purposes.
    • South Africans are permitted to have their travels financed by third parties (SA based employers paying the applicant a Pound contribution towards UK living costs). Flights, accommodation and spending money is permitted to be given for applicants with business travel purposes (within reason). The amount paid across to the applicant cannot be more than their salary.
    • South Africans are permitted to partake in a short course (maximum 30 days) in the UK. This is subject to the course not being their main reason for visiting the UK. There are other study visas available for courses longer than 30 days.
    • South Africans are permitted to engage in the following activities:
      •  Attend meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews;
      • Give a one-off or short series of talks and speeches provided these are not organised as commercial events and will not make a profit for the organiser;
      •  Negotiate and sign deals and contracts;
      • Attend trade fairs, for promotional work only, provided the visitor is not directly selling to members of the public (rather they deal business to business);
      •  Carry out site visits and inspections;
      •  Gather information for their employment in South Africa;
         Be briefed on the requirements of a UK based customer, provided any work for the customer is done outside of the UK.
      •  Advise and consult;
      • Trouble-shoot;
      • Provide training;
      • Share skills and knowledge; on a specific internal project with UK employees of the same corporate group, provided no work is carried out directly with clients.
    • An internal auditor may carry out regulatory or financial audits at a UK branch of the same group of companies as the visitor’s employer overseas.
    • South African graduates from medical, dental or nursing schools may:
    • Undertake clinical attachments or dental observer posts provided these are unpaid, and involve no treatment of patients. The visitor must provide written confirmation of their offer to take up this post and confirm they have not previously undertaken this activity in the UK;
    • Take the following test/examination in the UK:
      • (i) the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test, where the visitor can provide written confirmation of this from the General Medical Council; or
      • (ii) the Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCE) for overseas, where the visitor can provide written evidence of this from the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
    • Employees of a South African company or organisation may receive training from a UK based company or organisation in work practices and techniques which are required for the visitor’s employment in South Africa and not available in their home country.
    • An employee of a South African based training company may deliver a short series of training to employees of a UK based company, where the trainer is employed by a South African business contracted to deliver global training to the international corporate group to which the UK based company belongs.

UK’s business visitor visas activities not permitted

    • South Africans are not permitted to work (paid or unpaid) in the UK.
      • This includes taking employment in the UK (working for a UK employer) – full time or part time.
      • Also includes work placement or internship in the UK (not permitted).
      • South Africans are not permitted to directly sell to the UK public under this visitor visa.
      • South Africans are not permitted to provide goods or services with this visitor visa.
    • South Africans are not permitted to change visa status whilst in the UK (from visitor status).
      • Therefore, South Africans are permitted to apply for visitor visas and once in the UK (with visitor status), they are not permitted to change status to other visa categories (whilst in the UK). South Africans are expected to return to SA to change their visa status. This serves to stop South Africans from trying to compromise the visitor visa system.
    • South Africans are not permitted to marry (or register a relationship) in the UK with this standard visitor visa. There are visas available for this though.
    • South Africans are not permitted to live in the UK for long periods with this visitor visa status (longer than 180 days per annum). Maximum stay is therefore 180 days per year.
    • South Africans are legally not permitted to request access to the UK public funds (to try claim welfare benefits) whilst in the UK with visitor status (standard visitor visa).

If South Africans are looking to work or live in the UK, we encourage them to complete our quick and easy visa assessment to see what options are available.

If you are not sure which visa best applies to your application, we encourage you to try our quick, easy and free visa assessment.

Alternatively get in contact with our team of friendly visa consultants.