Contracting abroad: Covid’s consequences will fade, Brexit’s won’t

The Brexit deal between the UK and EU is not even one-month-old, so maybe that is why we are seeing a number of UK contractors and UK recruitment agencies not appreciating that the end of the transition period on December 31st 2020 also meant the ending of the Free Movement of Persons, writes Nik Papageorgiou, EU country manager at Access Financial.

So right now and for the foreseeable, Brits cannot work in the EU/EEA or anywhere else outside the ‘Common Travel Area’ (UK, Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man), without a work visa.

Visa vagueness

Crucially, a business visa is NOT a work visa. Many individuals who we are coming across, in the pursuit of arrangements already made, do not seem to understand that a business visa is not a work visa, nor do they care to understand the difference.

A business visa is a visa allowing the individual to come into the country in order to attend meetings or conferences -- in essence to try and stimulate business opportunities and conclude deals. It is not valid for a temporary or permanent stay in the country, but it usually allows for multiple entries. A work visa is a permission to work as an employed or self-employed individual in the said country, to work for an employer or to manage a project.

About the only EU/EEA country where Brits may still work fairly freely is in the Netherlands, where the ‘Knowledge Migrant Worker’ visa effectively fast-tracks higher paid, skilled labour.

The other issue that individuals and agencies are coming up against in this post-Brexit world is that there is no automatic recognition of qualifications held by Brits -- in the EU/EEA, or anywhere else.

Tightening the screw, the new negative covid test UK entry requirement

Serving to tighten the screw for those of us who like, need or want to work abroad, travelling to or from the UK is becoming even harder for absolutely everyone, including resident contractors.

New lockdown rules will remain in force until at least mid-February 2021, with an additional layer of protection added from this week. In fact, all nationals entering the UK from 4am on Monday January 18th (arriving by ship, plane or train), will be forced to take a Covid-19 PCR test up to three days before departure, and provide evidence of a negative result before they travel.

Please note, the ‘negative’ test does not exempt inbound travellers from staying in a quarantine for 10 days after arrival -- it only allows them to enter without paying a hefty fine (£500). They can opt for a second PCR test five days after arrival, in order to be released from quarantine.

Considerably less overseas contracting

Taking both factors into account (so both Brexit and Covid-19 travelling restrictions), we are likely to see considerably fewer Brits travelling abroad for work in the short term. Similarly, international contractors are being encouraged to work remotely when and where possible, minimising their physical presence on-site at just about all clients in the EU/ EEA and UK.

In the longer term though, as the coronavirus vaccinations continue and lockdowns start bearing fruits in the shape of reduced infections, we should see a gradual return to some kind of normality on the contracting overseas front. The virus hardship will eventually fade away. Not the same can be said about Brexit consequences.

Editor's Note: This article is an updated version of the original following an announcement by transport secretary Grant Shapps MP.


Profile picture for user Nikolas Papageorgiou

Written by Nikolas Papageorgiou

Nikolas Papageorgiou has worked at Access Financial since 2015. He is Country Manager for Europe, which involves predominantly working with recruitment agencies and corporate clients who wish to place contractors in Luxembourg, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland. 
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