UK Visit Visa: What Activities Are Permitted?

In this post, we’ll look at what UK visitors can (and can’t) do when visiting the UK for any of the following:

Readers should also refer to our previous posts: UK Visitor Visa (Tourist or Leisure) – Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions, Guide to UK Tourist, Leisure & Family Visit Visas and Guide to UK Tourist, Leisure & Family Visit Visas -Two parts.

Tourist, Leisure and Family Visit Visas

As a visitor you will need to prove that you have entered the UK and are carrying out a permitted activity. These activities include visiting friends and family or coming to the UK on holiday.

Visitors can also participate in educational exchange programs in the UK. A visit may be to a national school or academy or to an independent school. The Home Office may check whether the student has full-time education in his or her home country and the accompanying adult is employed abroad.

Another permitted activity includes conducting recreational learning for up to 30 days, where the course does not lead to formal qualification. For example, a horse riding course. If she wants to take an English course from 6 months to 11 months at an accredited institution, a short-term student visa (English) may be an option, but this is the unsponsored route.

general business activities

As a visitor intending to carry out business activities within the UK, the Home Office will assess whether you are coming to the UK to do business or make the UK your main place of work.

The Immigration Regulations set out the general business activities permitted when staying in the UK as a visitor:

  • Attend meetings, conferences, seminars and interviews.
  • Giving a one-off or series of short talks or speeches provided that they are not organized as a commercial event and do not benefit the organisers.
  • negotiating and signing transactions and contracts;
  • Participation in trade fairs for promotional purposes only, provided that visitors are not selling directly.
  • Conducting site visits and inspections.
  • Information gathering for overseas employment.
  • If work for a customer is done outside the UK, we will be briefed on the requirements of a UK based customer.

For other work-related activities, please see our Business Visit Visa page and Dos and Don’ts for Doing Business on Visit Visas.

If you are unsure of the business activities you are permitted to carry out in the UK as a visitor, it is worth seeking legal advice before your visit to avoid your visit visa application being refused, as explained in this blog. I have.

artist and entertainer

If a company invites an artist from abroad to perform in the UK, it may be able to do so under certain circumstances as described here.

Guidance from the Home Office states that artists should “A person who comes to the UK to undertake an activity related to the arts such as literature, performing arts, visual arts or culinary arts

Entertainers are dancers, comedians, circus performers, film crews, esports competitors, and anyone who engages in activities related to the performing arts.

Artists, entertainers, and musicians with a Creative Visitor permit can engage in the following permitted activities:

  • Perform as an individual or as part of a group.
  • Participate in contests and auditions.
  • Make personal appearances and participate in promotional activities.
  • Attend one or more cultural events or festivals on the festival list without permission.

Film crews (actors, producers, directors, or technicians) employed by overseas companies are invited to make creative visits to participate in location shoots of films, programs, or other media content produced and financed abroad. You can visit the UK with a visa.


Athletes, with a permit as a sports visitor, may engage in the following permitted sports activities:

  • Participate in any sporting tournament or event as an individual or as part of a team.
  • Make personal appearances and participate in promotional activities.
  • Join a trial if you’re not in front of a paying audience.
  • Participate in short-term training only if you are not being remunerated by a UK sporting body.
  • Join an amateur team or club to gain experience in a particular sport if you are an amateur in that sport.

If the applicant wants to work as a professional athlete, there is another visa route – the International Athlete Visa.

Are payments accepted as a visitor?

Visitors are not permitted to work in the UK and, with some exceptions, may not receive payment from UK sources for activities performed in the UK. In April 2022, we published a post on exceptions for visitors accepting pay equivalent to pay for activities conducted in the UK as a visitor. An exception is if the visitor is an artist, entertainer or musician attending a UK permit-free festival or is a visitor authorized as an authorized paid engagement visitor.

What activities are considered work?

Visitors must not intend to work in the UK and this includes:

  • employment in the UK;
  • work for a UK organization or company;
  • Establish or operate a business as a self-employed person.
  • conducting job placements or internships;
  • Direct sales to the public.
  • provision of goods and services;

If you need further clarification as to whether the activities you plan to undertake in the UK constitute work, advice from immigration experts will ensure compliance with UK immigration regulations.

UK Visitor Visa Application Eligibility Requirements

When applying for a tourist visa, the applicant must prove that:

  • They are genuine visitors and leave the UK at the end of their visit.
  • They do not visit the UK frequently or continuously, nor are they based in the UK.
  • They have sufficient funds for the visit, including return travel expenses.
  • They can provide proof of the purpose of the visit.
  • Do not engage in any prohibited conduct.

You may apply for a long-stay visa of up to 2, 5 or 10 years, and each visit must not exceed 6 months from the date of entry.

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