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I am a US citizen who joined a company based in the US. The company is separate from the parent company, which is based in the UK. The parent company did the hiring and wants me to come to London for four months for training, during which I will be paid by the US company.

As far as I can tell, I won't need a visa as long as I stay for fewer than 6 months. Further, based on the questionnaire Check if you need a UK visa, it seems as if my wife (also a US citizen) won't either:

If you’re staying 6 months or less

You do not need a visa if you’re visiting family or a partner for 6 months or less.

If the family member you’re joining is from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, you may be able to apply for a free family permit. This makes it easier and quicker to enter the UK. Your family member must have been living in the UK before 1 January 2021.

Does this make sense to you? I think because of the fact that I am employed and paid by a US company, I can stay for 6 months without a visa.

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    Does the UK parent company have immigration lawyers on staff or the ability to retain some? While your company's lawyer is not your lawyer, in this particular case it sounds like your interests align and you can probably generally trust what they say on this topic; they certainly would have more knowledge about what has and hasn't worked out for similar folks at your company in the past.
    – mlc
    Sep 15 at 5:25
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    As a general comment, although some visa rules specify 'up to 6 months', border officials will often get more suspicious if you are staying for (say) 3 or 4 months - especially if you are entering with family members, as it makes it seem that you have fewer ties to your home country. In your situation I'd be uncomfortable without having the UK parent company either a) arrange a visa or b) give you their say-so that things will be fine (and tell you what to say/present at the border).
    – topo morto
    Sep 15 at 13:09
  • coffeecake asked a question about his wife not himself, and all of your answers are just irrelevant to his question.
    – user122989
    Sep 15 at 15:53
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    Surely if your company has both UK and US presence, and the UK parent company trains people in the UK, they should have a procedure in place for acquiring visas/sorting out the legal for you?
    – stanri
    Sep 15 at 15:54
  • Excellent points. I reached out to the company asking if they had an immigration lawyer on staff or experience in similar situations and what I should present and say at the border. Thanks!
    – coffeecake
    Sep 20 at 15:18
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The questionnaire linked in your question is specifically about visiting family in the UK. Since you will be visiting for work-related purposes, that doesn't apply. The page you're looking for is this one, which says:

If you’re visiting for certain business or academic activities

You can come to the UK as a Standard Visitor for up to 6 months without a visa, but you can only do certain business or academic activities, for example go to a conference or a meeting.

You cannot:

  • do paid or unpaid work for a UK company or as a self-employed person
  • do a work placement or internship
  • sell directly to the public or provide goods and services

That's still a bit vague, and they provide a link to the Immigration Rules Appendix Visitor: Permitted Activities. Under work-related training it says:

PA 10.2. Employees of an overseas company or organisation may receive training from a UK based company or organisation in work practices and techniques which are required for the visitor’s employment overseas and not available in their home country.

Based on your description it's not clear if the training you intend to follow meets those criteria. Specifically, it's not clear if the training is not available in your home country. As such, I think the following options is the most logical: Ask the UK parent company whether their training qualifies under PA 10.2 of the UK's Immigration Rules Appendix Visitor: Permitted Activities, i.e. whether you may attend the training as a visitor to the UK.

Another approach would be to get a work visa just in case. In that case, you would need to get it through your employer anyway so they can sponsor your visa. So even when you choose this option the employer (or the UK parent company) seems like the best starting point for your question.


As for the work-related training exception, there's some guidance in this document by the Home Office (specifically related to the PA 10.2 allowed activity):

Training should be in work practices and techniques that are not available in the visitor’s home country. It should typically be class-room based or involve familiarisation or observation. Practical training is however allowed provided it does not amount to ‘training on the job’ or the person filling a role. It is acceptable for a visitor to learn how to use a piece of equipment in the UK, but you must carefully assess how long they intend to do this for and make sure there is no risk that they will be working for that company in the UK.

Where you think the training is available in their home country, you may want to question why the visitor needs to come to the UK.

If the visitor states that they will be being trained for longer than one month, you should consider who will be covering their work overseas and whether their training activities actually amount to taking employment in the UK.

Based on that, it seems the main criteria are that the activity in the UK doesn't amount to actual work and the training is not available back in the US. Again, this is something the UK parent company knows because they will most likely have dealt with foreign trainees before.


As for your wife, whether she needs a visa depends on what she intends to do during your time in the UK. If she wants to work then she'll need a visa. If the idea is that she'll just accompany you and maybe do some sightseeing then she can stay as a visitor based on the page you found already. Of course the two of you may need to convince UK officials at the border that she won't be working or doing anything else that you're not allowed to do as a visitor. For starters, that means you need to convince them that you have sufficient funds or income to support yourselves during your stay.

When you select the visiting as a tourist option, the following pops up:

What you need at the UK border

You must provide a valid passport or travel document. Your passport should be valid for the whole of your stay in the UK.

You may also be asked to prove that:

  • you’re visiting for tourism
  • you’re able to support yourself and your dependents during your trip (or have funding from someone else to support you)
  • you’ve arranged accommodation for your stay
  • you’re able to pay for your return or onward journey (or have funding from someone else)
  • you’ll leave the UK at the end of your visit

I'd expect similar questions in your situation.

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    Im pretty sure a 4 month training period would constitute a work placement or secondment and fall foul of the clause “do paid or unpaid work for a UK company”- otherwise its a 6 month end run around employment and immigration in the UK and we would be seeing everyone doing it…. No more work visas required for low paid jobs, just 6 month training paid for by an offshore entity.
    – Moo
    Sep 15 at 5:12
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    @Moo added a bit on how it's enforced, clearly it's not a loophole for doing low paid work. It has to be training that isn't available in their home country and it should not be 'training on the job'.
    – JJJ
    Sep 15 at 5:21
  • @JJJ Super helpful answer. Thank you! I would say that the training is definitely only available at the parent company in the UK (but I know it won't be up to me to decide). SO I think I fall under that criterion. I really appreciate your help with this.
    – coffeecake
    Sep 20 at 15:21
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What you need is for your company's lawyer (a UK-based lawyer versed in immigration law, whether hired by the US or UK company) to come up with a strategy. As @mic noted in the comments, "your company's lawyer is not your lawyer", but in this case your interests (not getting arrested and deported) and your company's interests (not having an employee arrested and deported) are in perfect alignment.

You don't want to do it yourself; your company is putting you into this position, they can get appropriate legal advice for you. It's good for you to familiarize yourself with the law, but getting good advice is more important.

He/she should get all your ducks in a row before you depart: who is paying you, where you will be staying, how that's being paid for, etc. Then, he/she should prepare a letter, signed by an appropriate company official detailing all this. You'll carry this with you (two copies, one in a sealed envelope, one for your purposes). You need to have read and understood the letter before you leave, and you need to make sure that when you are asked questions at immigration control (whether you have handed the immigration officer the letter yet or not), your answers are both truthful and in complete concurrence with what is in the letter.

Then you need to heed the normal immigration advice: don't answer questions that haven't been asked. Officer: "Why are you coming here?" You: "For a 4 month company training class" - simple, to the point answers. If the questions get too deep, pull out the letter and say "Perhaps this might help, my company's lawyers prepared it and it's signed by the Chief Letter Signing Officer".

The simpler and more consistent you keep things, the easier your passage will be.

Normal caveat: I'm not a lawyer, don't take this as legal advice. I've just crossed a lot of borders over the years

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  • Thank you for the advice! I'll ask the company to prepare a letter.
    – coffeecake
    Sep 20 at 18:31

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