Many legal contexts regard self employment equivalently as employment just as much as working for someone else, like job seekers allowance now Universal Credit. Appropriate adjustments are made to the process to correspond to each scenario, but with the aim of having the equivalent effect and access to support etc.

Standard visitors leave doesn't allow recourse to public funds, and sometimes exempts the visitor from liability for VAT on consumptions but it does allow one to conduct business while visiting. What is the distinction, if any at all, between the respective activities of self employment, and of conducting business?

Somewhat superficially, I suppose that conducting business may be negotiating and signing contracts, to sell things, buy things, produce things, etc. While self employment may more along the lines of working full time oneself directly rendering services to clients/customers like a massage therapist who either owns their own practice room or perhaps travels to people's homes. But the difference ultimately seems to be to be quite superficial and not at all fundamental to the nature of those activities and seems to me predominantly a question of how the activities are intentionally structured, described and framed as the line is much fuzzier then it may at first let on. For example, what if one spends their days performing work in the interest of some hoped-for eventual payoff but which isn't remunerated by the outside world on an hourly basis per se. Suppose someone is an author working daily on a book which work nobody may predict the hourly value of, but which the person does as they believe strongly in their own vision of the finished product and its prospects for success, and so they self-fund these activities whether composing the manuscript itself or corresponding with publishers to sell them on it, both of which may just as conceivably be delegated to someone else like a secretary or ghost writer who would be then doing the exact same things for a separate employer rather than themselves. Yet at the same time proposing disgusting and negotiating contracts with prospective publishing companies seems more akin to conducting business rather than self employment. Why can't the government just call anything at all "employing oneself to conduct business on one's own behalf"?

At that point, even calling up O2 customer service to negotiate one's phone bill could be called conducting one's own personal business. And why shouldn't it be?

Nonetheless, are the latter category of activities (self employment) permitted on a visitor's leave even while the right to work employer checking provisions would in practice never have much occasion to matter?

1 Answer 1


What is the distinction between self employment, and conducting business?

It's whether or not the visitor earns an income in the UK.

The Overview for the government's "Visit the UK as a Standard Visitor" guidance states:

You cannot:

  • do paid or unpaid work for a UK company or as a self-employed person

And the Appendix to the Immigration Rules confirms exactly what can be done:

General Business Activities

PA 4. A Visitor may:

(a) attend meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews; and

(b) give a one-off or short series of talks and speeches provided these are not organised as commercial events and will not make a profit for the organiser; and

(c) negotiate and sign deals and contracts; and

(d) attend trade fairs, for promotional work only, provided the Visitor is not directly selling; and

(e) carry out site visits and inspections; and

(f) gather information for their employment overseas; and

(g) be briefed on the requirements of a UK based customer, provided any work for the customer is done outside of the UK.

Note that these all relate to generating, for want of a better phrase, a non-UK income unlike self-employment.

  • But do they though? Take a Canadian author traveling to the UK to discuss deals with UK publishers for publishing their book in the UK for sale to UK readers/customers? That would seem to meet the allowed activities list and yet be about generating income that's within the UK, wouldn't it?
    – Timothy
    Aug 18, 2022 at 1:18
  • 1
    No book publisher will pay you for discussing deals; discussing deals generates no income. The deal itself may, but the work for that (writing a book) was done in Canada.
    – gnasher729
    Aug 18, 2022 at 5:46
  • @Timothy Try this: "being in receipt of renumeration for services rendered within the UK whilst being physically within the UK" - for want of a better phrase
    – user35069
    Aug 18, 2022 at 5:59
  • Well okay but then by that logic you could come to the UK to sell backpacks. Those backpacks might have been manufactured in China but the point in my mind about discussing deals was that if the book ends up getting sold in the UK then basically the income is coming from the UK economy. You're gaining access to the UK market, and your income is comprised of money coming from the UK just as it is if you're selling backpacks in Manchester on a street market stall to UK consumers which were produced in China
    – Timothy
    Aug 19, 2022 at 21:36

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