Many businesses will have seen a significant increase in international business travel now COVID-19 restrictions have been removed in the UK and eased globally. Although the Brexit transition period ended on 31 December 2020, many UK employers may have had fewer employees travelling internationally for business than would otherwise have been the case. Therefore, post-Brexit business travel to the EU may be relatively new for some.
Now that the UK has left the EU, what additional issues do employers need to consider if they are looking to send staff overseas for business travel?
What are the rules for travel to Europe now that the UK has left the EU?
British visitors do not typically need a visa for short trips of up to 90 days in any 180-day period to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein. This 90-day limit includes tourist travel and business travel for certain purposes, it also includes travel to more than one of these countries. Therefore, when arranging business travel for a British employee to a Schengen State(s), the employer should check:
- how much time they have spent in the country they are visiting;
- how much time they have spent in the rest of the Schengen area in the last 180 days.
This will help to ensure that they do not spend more than 90 days in total across all the countries they are visiting.
There are specific rules for non-Schengen countries in the EU: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania which each have their own separate 90-day limits. UK nationals can travel to and work in Ireland in the same way as before 1 January 2021. Those employees who have EU passports will not be subject to the same restrictions as free movement will apply to them.
You may wish to take advice on travel if you think your employee could be close to the limits above. For further details, see the general UK Government travel guidance and also their business travel guidance.
It will be critical for some employees to track and record details of their business travel to ensure compliance with the rules – especially if they regularly travel for work and for non-work purposes. The consequences of breaching Schengen limits can be very serious. If an employee spends considerable time in a Schengen country (if they have a holiday home overseas for example), this might limit their ability to spend significant amounts of time for business trips – so identifying any potential issues and planning ahead will be important.
The '10-year rule'
Before 1 October 2018, UK passports could be issued covering periods of longer than 10 years by including certain periods of outstanding validity on the previous passport in a new one. This can mean that some passports appear to be valid for 10 years plus the additional 'carried over' months from their previous passport. However, now that the UK has left the EU, British nationals will need to meet the entry requirements of the EU country they are visiting. This means that they cannot assume that if the expiry date on their UK passport has not passed, that it is valid for travel to the EU.
EU (except Ireland), Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City
If your employee is traveling to one of these places, they will need to meet the Schengen area passport requirements, which require a UK passport to be:
- less than 10 years old on the day that the employee enters the destination country. This means they could not travel to the above countries during any 'carried over' months from their previous passport. The employee will need to ensure that the start date was less than 10 years before the date of entry; and
- valid for at least 3 months after the day they plan to leave the destination country, as shown by the 'expiry date'.
Please note that these requirements apply to adult passports only.
For travel outside of the EU, it is important to check the passport requirements of the country being travelled to. The FCO recommends that individuals contact their travel provider or the embassy of the country that they are travelling to.
Passport expiry – how much time does my employee need to have left on their passport to travel outside of the UK?
The requirements vary by destination. Some countries such as the USA and Canada only require validity that covers the intended period of travel. Other destinations including most European countries as listed in the section above require at least 3 months left on your passport (check the 'expiry date') from the day that you plan to leave your destination to return to the UK. Other countries such as Thailand require you to have 6 months of validity remaining from the date that you will arrive at you destination.
You should ensure that you check the necessary requirements before arranging travel.
Passport renewal – increased demand
The Home Office has experienced increased demand for its services in applying for and renewing passports. Therefore, any employees who you may be sending overseas should renew their passports in time.
What visa requirements do UK employers need to consider when sending an employee overseas for a business trip?
When arranging business travel, you will need to check whether your employee who is travelling will need a visa for their trip. A useful starting point is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website.
Many countries place restrictions on what individuals can do as a visitor, particularly when it comes to business activities. Therefore, you should check what type of visa (if any) is needed to undertake the activities in question and if necessary, take local legal advice.
Are there any Coronavirus restrictions and vaccination requirements remaining?
Whilst many restrictions have been eased, many countries require proof of vaccination status for travel. The employer should therefore check the travel advice for the destination before booking. Also be mindful that certain countries may still have restrictions in place which could limit the types of activities that the employee can carry out, or other protective measures may be required (e.g. face masks or social distancing).
For more information about anything discussed in this blog, please contact a member of the Brodies Employment and Immigration team.