Cut red tape for short-term business travel, says TheCityUK

Press release
12 May 2022

Post-Brexit backlogs, increased costs, and complex rules are hampering UK businesses seeking to bring in overseas talent for short-term projects and training, according to TheCityUK.

The financial and related professional services industry is calling for reforms to the UK’s short-term business mobility rules, specifically Intra-Corporate Transferees (ICT), to allow firms in the UK to bring over existing overseas employees for short-term productive activity without needing a work visa.

In a new paper, ‘How to strengthen the UK’s short term mobility system,’ TheCityUK, building on previous work, argues that access to talent, homegrown and international, is crucial to unlocking new areas of innovation. The paper sets out how the current system is limiting firms’ ability to leverage their global talent networks to support export opportunities and innovation and hampering wider UK plans to become an attractive hub for highly-skilled international talent.

Being open and accessible to the world’s best talent is what makes the UK a top international financial centre. The country’s current short-term mobility rules make it hard for businesses to draw on the strengths of their global talent for short-term UK-based projects. Government should seize the opportunity Brexit has provided to make short-term business mobility easier, strengthening the UK’s competitiveness and capacity for innovation.

Nicola Watkinson, Managing Director, International Trade and Investment, TheCityUK

Financial and related professional services businesses often use short-term mobility routes to bring workers from international offices to the UK to support teams on short-term projects. Examples include:

  • Bringing international managers into the UK to meet new clients and customers
  • Using global subject matter experts to train UK employees to use a new product
  • Asking in-market experts to train UK employees on how to export services to their jurisdiction
  • Allowing technical experts (e.g. software engineers) to visit the UK for a short training course
  • Providing employees who moved to the EU to support EU customers and clients, with training and support from their UK office.

Using short-term business mobility routes is not an alternative to hiring people in the UK. Short-term business workers do not become UK-based workers who compete with domestic talent: they remain overseas workers and only carry out short, specific projects before returning home to share their positive experience of the UK, ultimately building the attractiveness of the UK as a financial centre.

The volume of visa applications has risen sharply since Brexit. Employees coming from the EU for short UK projects now need to apply for a visa and the system is struggling with the additional applications. Increased applications mean higher costs for businesses, with many needing to hire immigration services providers to manage applications, leaving some SMEs under strain.

The current turnaround time for applications does not match with business needs. Firms need to bring individuals in-and-out quickly to service clients, but it can take weeks to get a visa that enables one day’s work.

For more details on the limitations of the UK’s current short-term mobility system, and details recommendations for improvements, read: ‘How to strengthen the UK’s short term mobility system’.