With normal business travel between China and the UK resuming following the end of China’s Covid restrictions, more and more British companies in China are sending their Chinese staff to the UK for business trips, which necessitates applying for a visa
In this article, we give an overview of how to apply for a visa to visit the UK on business, including key considerations such as application timeline, cost, and documentation.
What kind of visa do you need to visit the UK on business?
The UK does not have a specific ‘business visa’. Instead, people travelling to the UK for business purposes can do so on a Standard Visitor visa (which also covers purposes such as tourism). This type of visa allows a visitor to remain in the UK for up to six months (180 days) and do the following business activities:
- attend interviews, meetings, conferences and seminars
- negotiate and sign deals and contracts
- attend trade fairs to promote your business (cannot sell things)
- get work-related training if said training is not available in the visitor’s home country
- give a one-off or short series of talks as long as they’re not for profit or a commercial event (must not be paid)
- carry out site visits and inspections
- oversee the delivery of goods and services provided by a UK company to an overseas company or organisation
- deliver training or share knowledge on internal projects with UK employees of the company the visitor works for overseas
- install, dismantle, repair, service or advise on equipment, computer software and hardware, if the overseas company has a contract with a UK company or organisation
Staff may be permitted to do certain additional activities depending on their job; for example, a translator and/or interpreter may translate and/or interpret in the UK as an employee of an enterprise located overseas (see a full list of all visitor activity rules here).
How long is a Standard Visitor visa valid for and how much does it cost?
For Chinese citizens, the Standard Visitor visa is valid for two years (fee: £100).
There is also an option to apply for a 5-year long-term Standard Visitor visa (£670) and a 10-year long-term Standard Visitor visa (£837).
All visas have a maximum length of stay of six months.
What documents are needed to apply for a Standard Visitor visa?
Visitors to the UK must show that they are a genuine visitor who is coming to the UK to undertake a permitted activity, that they will leave at the end of their visit and that they have sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs in relation to their visit.
UK Visas and Immigration recommends that in addition to a valid passport, applicants provide information about their circumstances in their home country (e.g., a letter from the company in China on headed paper detailing role, salary and length of employment) and details of the activity that they will be doing in the UK (e.g., an invitation letter from the company in the UK).
Click here to start the application process for a Standard Visitor visa via gov.uk.
How long is the application process for a Standard Visitor visa?
The current processing time for a Standard Visitor visa (for an application made in China) is 3 weeks (15 working days).
If you need a visa quicker than that, you can pay for ‘priority service’ (£500) at the time of application to get a decision within five working days or ‘super priority service’ (£800) to get a decision by the end of the next working day.
You can apply a maximum of three months before you travel.
For the most up-to-date guidance on applying for a Standard Visitor visa, please see gov.uk/standard-visitor