Brexit challenges pile up for UK-EU business travel

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British business travellers are already being turned back from European
countries for breaching post-Brexit movement restrictions that will be applied even
more rigorously when Schengen countries introduce electronic travel
authorisation in November 2023 – that was the warning delivered by legal and
regulatory professionals to a summit for entertainment sector travel buyers
staged by the BTN Group in London last month.

The panel also spelled out the liability exposure for employers of
non-compliance with the post-Brexit travel rules agreed by the EU and UK. Speakers
suggested that, for some roles involving EU travel, British companies should switch
to employing workers with EU rather than UK passports.

The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which took effect when the UK’s
Brexit transition period expired on 31 December 2020, specifies that UK
passport holders may only visit the EU visa-free (and vice versa) for 90 days in any
180-day period. In addition, visits for a wide range of work purposes require
work permits.

“There has been a big impact,” said Ben Sookia, EMEA advisory services
manager for immigration and visa consultancy Newland Chase. “There is now a
requirement for UK nationals to obtain a work permit if they are going to be
doing productive work; and productive work is essentially anything beyond
attending a meeting.”

Sookia added that some EU countries offer work permit exemptions to UK
visitors entering for less than 90 days. “It depends on where you are going,
how long for and what the activity is going to be,” he said.

Travellers getting the complex rules wrong – be it outstaying the 90-day limit or not securing the work permit required for the role being performed – are already reaping severe
consequences. “We’ve had five talents
refused entry into the EU in the last two months,” an attorney for a talent
management company told the audience.

“Each country has its own immigration
rules. Denmark is a good example. If we send a model to Denmark and they
declare at the border they are there for a modelling job, Denmark will
immediately send them back to the UK. They will detain them until the next
flight. We’ve had one issued with a two-year ban on going back to Denmark,
which covers going into the entire Schengen area.”

Both the attorney and Matt Bold, campaigns and policy officer for music
industry pressure group UK Music, said people travelling for work are
particularly confused by the 90/180 day rule. They do not always realise that
leisure travel counts towards the 90-day allowance, nor that the 180-day period
within which 90 days of entry are permitted is reset daily.

The need to count days accurately will become even more imperative once
Schengen countries introduce the European Travel Information and Authorisation
System ETIAS), currently due to launch in November 2023. Similar to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) for visitors
to the USA, all non-Schengen passport holders, including from the UK, will have
to pay €7 for the three-year authorisation to enter the area visa-free.

“With the introduction of ETIAS and electronic gates coming in, we have
been told that will immediately count the number of days,” the attorney said.
“At the moment border officers have discretion [to let through travellers who
have exceeded the limit] but [ETIAS] will pick it up immediately and spit out a
notice that you have been here for more than 90 days [in the last 180 days] and issue a fine or a
departure notice or whatever it wants to give.


A work permit for a UK national that can’t get an exemption could cost well into four figures and would need to be obtained per person per country


“It doesn’t have to be on your
arrival. It could be on your departure or the next time you try to enter the
EU,” said the attorney.

Nor is it necessarily only the traveller who is punished for
transgressions. “There are potentially penalties for the organisation as well.
There is potential reputational damage to your company,” said Sookia.

“Especially if you have an entity in the country where a fine has been
received,” added the attorney. “If one of them [your travellers] gets caught, not only is our
reputation damaged but it also impacts our ability to sponsor anyone else to
keep coming in and it impacts our ability to keep the people we have sponsored
there because it goes on our record as a company.”

In terms of how to manage post-Brexit UK-EU travel, Sookia offered three
recommendations. The first is to adopt technology or tools which track the number
of days spent by UK travellers inside the EU and vice versa. Some tools can
also define which work permits or visas are likely to be needed based on
duration, purpose and destination of the proposed trip.

Second, said Sookia, “Plan well in advance. One key reason is that you
will need to adjust your budgets in terms of getting work permits. A work
permit for a UK national that can’t get an exemption could cost well
into four figures and would need to be obtained per person per country. Immigration
authorities have recently been increasing their government fees for work
permits, which would be an additional cost to factor in.”

Finally, said Sookia, “If you haven’t got the budgets for that, one
solution is to stop hiring UK nationals where you can to work in EU countries.
Hire EU nationals. It’s going to save costs and make your lives a lot easier
for everyone from an immigration and visa perspective.”

Alternatively, he said, “Consider a rotation policy. If you have a worker
going in and reaching 70 or 80 days, have a second worker on standby so you
never have someone exceeding those 90 days if they are eligible for a work
permit exemption.”

The talent company attorney said her company is already taking all these
actions. “At the beginning of each year we make our production crews list the
events on their schedule, and we created with our IT department an Excel
spreadsheet,” she said.

“We hired an additional three paralegals simply to take
on doing this research. We count all the days to help our teams work out that
if they want to send [the same] production crew to every single event… that’s
just not going to be possible because they go over the 90 days. You need to
switch out production crew, bring them back to the UK and send someone else.

“We also have problems with people taking holidays and busting the count. They
say ‘now what do we do?’ and the simple answer is we switch them out for an EU
national.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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