News & Insights

Brexit: An Introduction of Frontier Worker Permits

Imelda Reddington, Head of Immigration, considers the introduction of Frontier Worker Permits to frontier workers.

A frontier worker is an EU, EEA or Swiss national who is employed (or self-employed) in the UK but lives primarily elsewhere.  Currently, due to the overarching principle of the free movement of goods, services and workers, frontier workers are free to work within the EU without any restrictions.  However, following the UK leaving the EU and the introduction of a new points-based immigration system, which will come into effect on 1 January 2021, there are some changes that frontier workers need to be aware of.  By the end of the transition period, an individual will be able to retain their current frontier worker status if they are frontier working in the UK by 31 December 2020.  However, unless they are Irish nationals, frontier workers will need to apply for a Frontier Worker Permit when the route launches on 10 December 2020.  The good news is that until 1 July 2021 the frontier workers will not need a permit to enter the UK.  Meaning that the frontier workers will have a six-months grace period between January 2021 and June 2021 to apply for a Frontier Worker Permit.  Applications will be free and the frontier workers will be able to apply online from inside or outside the UK.  The successful applicants will receive an electronic status rather than a physical card.

What you need to apply for a Frontier Worker Permit

To be eligible for the Frontier Worker Permit, the applicant must be:

  • an EEA national;
  • not primarily resident in the UK; and
  • either:
    • a worker in the UK; or
    • self-employed in the UK; or
    • a person who has retained the status of employed or self-employed.

In addition, the applicant will need to meet the above criteria before 31 December 2020 and continue to meet the criteria to make an application.  This means that the Frontier Worker Permit will only be available to those who begin working in the UK before 31 December 2020 and continue working as a frontier worker until they apply for a Frontier Worker Permit.

Also, according to the draft Citizens’ Rights (Frontier Workers) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, an individual will be treated as ‘not primarily resident in the UK’ if they can show either that:

  • they have been present in the UK for less than 180 days in the 12-month period immediately before the relevant date; or
  • they have returned to their country of residence at least once in the last six months or twice in the last 12 months before the relevant date (unless there are exceptional reasons for not having done so).

Seemingly, individuals who spend the majority of their time in the UK and only make the odd trip home every six months could be deemed to be ‘not primarily resident in the UK’.  However, we are awaiting further guidance from the Home Office on how frequently an individual can come to the UK to work and still qualify for a Frontier Worker Permit.

In addition, a frontier worker comes to the UK to undertake productive and paid work, which is not allowed under the UK’s business visitor permitted activities rules.  As EU workers who travel regularly to the UK on business will require a viable visa option and hopefully that the Frontier Work Permit will provide the necessary solution.

Frontier Workers and Key Dates

  • Until 30 June 2021, frontier workers (who are employed in the UK by 31 December 2020) can continue to enter the UK using their valid EU national identity card or national passport
  • From 1 July 2021, frontier workers must hold a valid Frontier Worker Permit, as well as their valid EU passport or National ID card, to enter the UK as a frontier worker
  • The Frontier Worker Permit will only be available to those who begin working in the UK before 31 December 2020
  • From 1 January 2021, non-UK nationals (including EU Citizens) who wish to begin employment in the UK while remaining resident outside the UK will need to apply for a visa through the new points-based immigration system

We recommend therefore that any existing EU employees first try to secure their status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), provided they are eligible to apply.  A pre-settled status under the EUSS will give an EU employee a five year work permit to continue to work in the UK.  Otherwise, if application to EUSS is not an option, frontier workers should consider obtaining the Frontier Work Permit which will enable them to continue working in the UK once the transition period comes to an end.

If you have any questions about the contents of this article or if you need any assistance with the Skilled Worker route, please contact [email protected] in the immigration team at FSP.