You’re now experienced in managing the huge challenges and impact of COVID-19. That’s great, but what’s next on the horizon if you’re a UK business?
Brexit. Remember that?
It’s back – and isn’t going away any time soon.
The pandemic has taken up so much time and energy that Brexit – the process by which the UK withdrew from the European Union – has dropped down the agenda: something to be dealt with at another time.
As business returns to a degree of normality, however, it’s fair to say Brexit is coming back into very sharp focus.
So it’s vital that companies and organisations have a strategy in place to deal with it – not least in terms of getting their people from one country to another, in accordance with a myriad of regulations. Failure to comply with those can result in fines and, in some cases, detention for workers. The duty of care responsibilities are there for all to see.
We’ve seen a rise in recent months of UK employers looking to send staff to work temporarily in another EU county. During this time, some will acquire posted worker status and attain the same basic working conditions and rights as workers in the host county. And naturally, in a post-Brexit world, this comes with its own set of complexities.
Brexit has changed the rules for travel between the UK and Europe. Following a transition period, UK nationals are now permitted to stay within the Schengen Area – comprising 26 countries, 22 of which are EU members – for 90 days out of a 180-day period. While this includes personal and professional travel, it nevertheless essentially means UK nationals no longer have free movement across the EU.
A trade and co-operation agreement was reached between the UK and the EU that could bring about more lenient/beneficial treatment of UK nationals travelling to Europe. It has yet to be implemented or properly enforced in all EU member states, although some countries have already adopted certain provisions of the agreement directly.
In these jurisdictions, UK nationals are able to undertake a broader range of activities under business visitor status. These activities include technical, scientific and statistical research; receiving training in techniques and work practices; visiting for establishment purposes; and after-sales/lease installation, repair or maintenance.
In all other jurisdictions, for the time being, UK nationals are in essentially the same position as any other “non-visa national”, such as an American, Australian, Canadian or Japanese national travelling to Europe.
Standard position of non-EU citizens
UK nationals making for Europe need to ensure that their passports are valid for at least 3 months from the intended departure date and that they have health cover in place. That said, we advise at least 6 months’ validity as this can help to avoid questions or delays at the border. (Travel between Ireland and the UK remains unaffected, thanks to the rules of the Common Travel Area.)
It should be borne in mind that, for UK nationals with a residence permit in an EU country, the 90-day allowance referred to above also applies for Schengen zone travel outside that country. Time spent in Europe should therefore be carefully monitored to ensure no overstay occurs.
The overarching message here is that, without free movement rights, UK nationals now default to the standard position of non-EU citizens, where activities conducted during travel must be screened to ensure that they fall within allowable business visit activities and/or an exemption to standard work permit rules is secured for each country where they travel.
If the activities to be performed go beyond permissible business visit activities, or there is no applicable exemption, a work permit would be required – and here it all becomes complicated because each country sets its own rules in this regard: what’s fine in one country may not be permissible in another.
Prepare for all eventualities
That’s why the changing world of immigration requires a modern, technological approach which copes with such a constantly changing landscape: one with expertise at its core. There are a few useful tips for UK individuals travelling to Europe: an invitation letter from their destination country, a travel itinerary, proof of comprehensive health insurance and evidence of sufficient financial means can all help satisfy queries at immigration.
Businesses, meanwhile, need to prepare more generally for all eventualities – using the same best-case, worst-case scenarios and planning that they applied to their pandemic mitigation strategies.
This is where Nomadic comes into its own. Nomadic is an innovative travel solution that is part of the technology suite at Fragomen, the world’s leading immigration services firm.
The Nomadic application ensures users are “travel-ready”, meeting stringent immigration, documentation and health criteria. In addition, its optional GPS capabilities take it to another level, supporting traceability of staff for on-going compliance support, risk management, tax reporting and duty of care responsibilities.
The cloud-based application encapsulates an end-to-end traveller profile, from pre-trip compliance assessment and visa requirements through to live updates. Using the portal online or via their smartphone, the user simply selects their proposed destination to bring up all relevant documentation, with a previously created traveller profile automatically populating sections. The completed documents are sent by the traveller to the relevant embassy, global Nomadic hub or Nomadic in-country partner for lodging.
By accessing the rules in the destination country or countries of your business travellers, you can prepare for the requirements. Our Brexit team also offers full support and assistance for your business to manage requirements, set expectations, advise staff and plan ahead.
Smart, built-for-purpose technology, supported by on-demand legal expertise, is the way forward in overcoming these hurdles. Whichever way you look at it, it’s time to define your own direction of travel when it comes to strategic workforce planning.
Aberdeen-based Neil Thomson is a director at Nomadic, a business focused on global short-term immigration compliance management and transactional delivery, using innovative technology solutions to reduce costs and improve service. Fragomen is a leading firm dedicated exclusively to immigration services worldwide. It has almost 5,000 immigration professionals and support staff in more than 50 offices across the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific. Fragomen offers immigration support in more than 170 countries.
For detailed information about Nomadic, visit www.gonomadic.com