I am a US citizen. I run my own software company that serves US citizens so I am essentially self-employed.

I would like to visit London for fun and work on my US-based company while living there for a month -- at most 30 days.

Would I need a special visa to be able to do this? Or can I just show up like I would for a regular trip?

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    It's generally prohibited on a visitor visa, and there's no visa available that allows it. (Canada allows this sort of thing, though; it's the only country I know that does so explicitly.) Your best bet is to take a month off. I don't have a authoritative reference handy, which is why I'm not posting a proper answer. – phoog Sep 25 '19 at 1:53
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    Or take a shorter time in London, and use it all sightseeing and going to theater etc. – Patricia Shanahan Sep 25 '19 at 2:00
  • @phoog What is typically the best way to get a definitive answer for something like this? I always read articles about these people that are self-employed as they travel the world.. how do they do it legally? – benzino444 Sep 27 '19 at 16:12
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    @benzino444 They perhaps don't emphasize that they'll be working remotely during their stay, or they avoid the UK (which is relatively stricter about this from what I've observed anecdotally). Since relatively recently, US citizens have been able to enter the UK as visitors through automated passport gates, so unless the gate flags them they don't have to talk to anyone. – phoog Sep 27 '19 at 16:24
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    Update: I decided to go for a shorter period of time and make it 100% vacation instead. – benzino444 Oct 8 '19 at 4:23

A key point in this situation is that UK Immigration Rules on working while in the UK as a visitor state that visitors must not receive payment from a UK source for any activities undertaken in the UK (V 4.7 https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-appendix-v-visitor-rules)

The other relevant rules are:

V 4.5 The applicant must not intend to work in the UK, which includes the following:

(a) taking employment in the UK;

(b) doing work for an organisation or business in the UK;

(c) establishing or running a business as a self-employed person;

(d) doing a work placement or internship;

(e) direct selling to the public;

(f) providing goods and services;

unless expressly allowed by the permitted activities in Appendices 3, 4 or 5.

V 4.6 Permitted activities must not amount to the applicant taking employment, or doing work which amounts to them filling a role or providing short-term cover for a role within a UK based organisation. In addition, where the applicant is already paid and employed outside of the UK, they must remain so. Payment may only be allowed in specific circumstances set out in V 4.7.

IANAL and I’ve not been able to find a reliable interpretation of whether V4.6 ‘remaining paid and employed’ effectively allows nomad working by a visitor whose true primary purpose in visiting is tourism/leisure. It’s a gray area - see also Where can I travel for prolonged periods of time while legally working remotely for a company in my home country?

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  • does (c) apply for a business that is solely outside the UK as in this case? – Mark Johnson Sep 25 '19 at 9:18
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    I am quite sure I have read or seen accounts of people who were refused admission to the UK after mentioning that they were planning to work remotely, but I don't have time just now to look for them. It does seem relatively easy to read the rules you've quoted here as permitting remote work, however. – phoog Sep 27 '19 at 16:26
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    @phoog I agree. I guess it comes down to the OP’s risk appetite and how much time they're planning to spend as a ‘tourist’ visitor vs how much time they’d be spending running their business while in the UK. Possibly the advent of ePassport gates would mean the OP wouldn’t even have a landing interview, and thus the question might not even be asked. – Traveller Sep 27 '19 at 17:02

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