What kind of visa do I need to study and telecommute in the U.K. for three months?
December 17, 2012 4:33 AM   Subscribe

American going to UK for 3 months, in need some immigration help. Any specialists here? Special snowflake details follow.

So I work for a multi-national company. I'm also going to school part-time. I've been granted a rare a chance to go to school in the U.K., and my bosses generously gave me permission to study and work from there.

But first, they wanted to run it by some immigration lawyers, who they have a contract with. The lawyers have made things much more difficult than I expected them to be, especially judging from what I read on the U.K. Home Office Web site.

I will be in the U.K. for three months. The U.K. does not require a visa from students studying there less than 6 months, as a student visitor. I am not working for a U.K. company. My paychecks are issued from an American address. The U.K. also allows business visitors, working for overseas companies to stay without a visa for up to 6 months.

The lawyers say I need a Tier 4 visa and I need to reduce my working hours. Maybe you know U.K. immigration law well. Maybe you've done something similar, or know someone who has. What does your experience say on the matter?

posted by Borborygmus to Travel & Transportation around Manchester, England (5 answers total)
Immigration is a very politically sensitive issue in the UK. There has recently been a crackdown on student visas, which seems to constitute the majority of cases where people have entered the UK illegally.

The visa system in the UK is fundamentally complex. Having navigated it myself, it seems to be a deliberate feature - providing a steep obstacle for people who apply to overcome, and giving the UKBA the maximum number of technicalities to invoke to deny visas to those who apply.

I can't comment directly on your situation, but I would grab any offer your company makes to provide legal advice on the issue with both hands. Doing it yourself can be a frustrating and stressful experience.

If you want to know more about your own specific situation I recommend the forums at Expatforum.com - there are a lot of people there who have navigated the system and can offer some advice.

Good luck!
posted by TheOtherGuy at 5:11 AM on December 17, 2012

I am not a lawyer but I know enough about UK immigration law to be dangerous. I can tell you the reasoning behind what the lawyers are telling you.

First of all, I see no way you qualify as a business visitor. The purpose of your visit to the UK has nothing to do with your employer (such as attending meetings, visiting clients etc) it just happens that your employer is allowing you to do this.

Ok, with that out of the way, you are doing "work" while you are in the UK even though it is not work for a UK company. A student visitor visa for visits of less than 6 months specifically does not allow any kind of work.

So, your lawyers said to themselves, I believe, this guy needs a Tier 4 which does allow him to study in the UK and work. The thing is the Tier 4 only allows up to 20 hours a week of work, which is why they are asking you to cut down your hours.

So, all that said, your best hope is in convincing UKBA/your lawyers that telecommuting work is not "work" as defined by the UKBA. I've seen several questions around this but have yet to see a definitive answer from UKBA. Thus your lawyers are taking the cautious approach.
posted by vacapinta at 5:15 AM on December 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks to you both, especially vacapinta. That was very helpful, it helped resolve some of my curiosity.

The tricky aspect is that my school is not assigning CAS numbers because I'm staying fewer than 6 months. A CAS number is required for a Tier 4 visa though!

My company has offices in the U.K., and I am a media workers ("overseas news media representatives") Would that still cut me out as a business worker?
posted by Borborygmus at 5:22 AM on December 17, 2012

vacapinta has it. UKBA's position is that if you are physically in the UK, even if you are working for a US employer and being paid in the US, you are working in the UK and thus must be covered by a suitable visa. They deal with the issues of telecommuting by simply not addressing it at all.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:23 AM on December 17, 2012

My company has offices in the U.K., and I am a media workers ("overseas news media representatives") Would that still cut me out as a business worker?

From vacapinta's business visitor link:
You must also be able to show that, during your visit, you do not intend to:
- do a course of study;
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:09 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

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