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Users at Travel:SE have for years accepted the idea that a visitor to the UK may not use a tourist entry to “live” in the UK, and may not work remotely in the UK while visiting. The first issue seems settled, and is not the focus of this question. This question addresses only the second issue: whether a visitor to the UK may work remotely while in the UK.

Previous questions addressing this are legion, a few on Travel.StackExchange are this one and this one ; others on Expatriates.StackExchange are this one and this one. Yesterday, the question My girlfriend lives in the UK and I want to be able to come and leave as I please for next 3 years—which visa should I get? was posted on Travel:SE, and the answers and comments took the usual you-can’t-work-remotely-while-visiting track. No surprises there.

Then user @ZenJ posted an interesting comment. Here’s the comment:

Actually I just found this: Immigration Rules Appendix V: visitor rules (gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/…) and sections 4.5-4.7 prohibit work in UK for UK company, but allow remote work (at least how I understand it). In addition, where the applicant is already paid and employed outside of the UK, they must remain so. Next paragraph 4.7 prohibits payment only from UK sources

Here is the actual Guidance text in Sections 4.5, 4.6, and 4.7.

Section 4.5 addresses "Prohibited Activities"

Prohibited activities

Work

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.

Section 4.6 lists additional prohibitions.

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.

Section 4.7 addresses payment from UK sources.

Payment V 4.7 The applicant must not receive payment from a UK source for any activities undertaken in the UK, except for the following:

(a) reasonable expenses to cover the cost of their travel and subsistence, including fees for directors attending board-level meetings; or

(b) prize money; or

(c) billing a UK client for their time in the UK, where the applicant’s overseas employer is contracted to provide services to a UK company, and the majority of the contract work is carried out overseas. Payment must be lower than the amount of the applicant’s salary; or

(d) multi-national companies who, for administrative reasons, handle payment of their employees’ salaries from the UK; or

(e) where the applicant is engaged in Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE) as listed at Appendix 4, provided the applicant holds a visa or leave to enter as a PPE visitor; or

(f) paid performances at a permit free festival as listed in Appendix 5.

I’m a retired lawyer in the US, and familiar with reading statutes and rules. While the See All Updates link shows the Guidance’s amendment history, its format is unfamiliar to me and hard to read. This text, however, appears to have been in place for at least a year.

The text in these three sections contradicts the common knowledge we’ve shared here for years. § 4.5 contains work prohibitions, but it’s not difficult to define remote work that would not foul them. For example, a traveler employed by a non-UK firm, which firm doesn’t have a presence in the UK, sell product in the UK, or meet clients in the UK, appears to escape this section's prohibitions.

§ 4.6 is more of the same, and even contains this tidbit:

In addition, where the applicant is already paid and employed outside of the UK, they must remain so.

§ 4.7 simply prohibits payment from UK sources.

All told, this looks like remote work is permitted on a tourist entry, provided the remote work doesn’t violate any of the no-nos set forth in these three sections.

For another example, consider a foreign academic, normally resident in a home country and not in the UK, employed by a home country institution in the home country, and paid in home-country currency by that non-UK institution into a home-country bank account. It appears that this individual could work remotely while a visitor in the UK without violating any of these prohibitions, provided the work consisted only (for example) of leading online classes of students who themselves all remain in the home country...further provided, of course, that the academic's presence in the UK remained as a tourist and not as one "living" in the UK.

Thus, my question: Is some remote work now permitted for travelers admitted to the UK on a tourist entry?

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  • I think this is relevant: travel.stackexchange.com/a/45492/71664 Jun 20 '20 at 18:26
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    @Traveller I think Appendix 3 no longer exists. The Guidance's Immigration Rules Index, at gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-index shows Appendix 3 as "Deleted." Notes at the head of the Index page show the Index page was originally published 25 February 2016, and updated 4 June 2020. Jun 21 '20 at 14:40
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    @DavidSupportsMonica No, that’s not correct. There is an App3 of the Visitor Rules (and an App 2, 4 &5). It is referred to within the main body of the Visitor Rules V4.2(c) and is still available here gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/…
    – Traveller
    Jun 21 '20 at 15:58
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    @DavidSupportsMonica That’s the the way I’d interpret them, although I can’t point to any further guidance other than the examples already quoted here. In practice, I think it’s highly unlikely a tourist doing the odd hour or so of checking email, joining a conference call etc for their overseas employer from time to time while visiting would have any problems. But entering the UK purporting to be a tourist whilst actually intending to pretty much continue full normal duties for an overseas employer on a remote basis isn’t allowed (although I’d imagine lots of people do it & get away with it).
    – Traveller
    Jun 21 '20 at 17:50
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    Fwiw, Academics are not a great example, as they already get a lot of exceptions.I wonder how the "self employed" thing would effect contractors too.
    – CMaster
    Aug 3 '20 at 8:45

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