Is it ok to attend a conference on a tourist visa, or is it considered "unpaid work"?

I am going to a conference in England in December. As a French citizen, I wondered if I needed a visa, and found on this website https://visalist.io/united-kingdom/visa-requirements/france the following statement:

UK authorities can refuse visa-free entry to anyone who they believe is trying to enter for a purpose other than tourism. If you're planning to do paid or unpaid work, volunteer or get married, you need to get a visa before you travel.

Technically, I am going to England only "for work", so it is not tourism. But I am not going there to work for someone in England, whether paid or not.

  • It's probably unlikely an EU citizen on a flight from France will see an actual agent, but I'm not an EU citizen. Aug 25, 2022 at 18:32
  • Do EU citizens need any visa at all to visit UK? Is it that bad. I've travelled all over Europe as a US citizen and never had any visa, only a current passport.
    – Buffy
    Aug 25, 2022 at 18:34
  • 1
    I doubt that it is considered "work" unless the conference is paying you. I suspect that it would be considered unpaid work if you were somehow replacing someone in the workforce, but you aren't doing that, I suspect. The travel site here might have better answers: travel.stackexchange.com
    – Buffy
    Aug 25, 2022 at 18:37
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    I am not an expert or a lawyer but I would strongly advised against using the word "work" when seeking a visa to enter the UK, as some years ago one of my visitors ran into a problem. "Exchange of academic ideas" under "business" might be more appropriate. I also agree with Buffy that you should check on gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration whether you really need a visa
    – Yemon Choi
    Aug 26, 2022 at 1:23

1 Answer 1


As far as I can tell, the correct approach if a visa is needed would be to apply as a "Standard Visitor" and note you are there on business, which allows you to do certain business activities.


If you have a French passport, though, it seems you are exempt and can travel without a visa. You should always be honest with any officials about your reasons for visit.

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.


I would always look for international travel information directly from the government of the country you are traveling to. There are all sorts of borderline scam and outright scam sites out there that promise to somehow facilitate your travel with their expert advice, but they're typically just fleecing you by charging for information you can get for free.

  • 4
    Nice observation at the end.
    – Buffy
    Aug 25, 2022 at 19:05

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