News & Insights

New Frontier Worker Permit Scheme: Who Can Apply?

Following the Government’s plan to introduce a new Frontier Work Permit Scheme, Imelda Reddington, Head of Immigration, considers its key elements.

We reported last month that the Government is planning to introduce the new Frontier Worker Permit.  The permit will enable frontier worker to continue working and having access to public funds and NHS services in the UK once the transition period ends, 11pm 31 December 2020.

Frontier workers will be able to apply for a Frontier Worker Permit from 10 December 2020.  There is no deadline by which the frontier workers need to make an application, however they will need a permit to enter the UK from 1 July 2021.  This gives frontier workers a six-month grace period between January 2021 and June 2021 to apply.  Applications will be free, and the frontier workers can apply online from inside or outside the UK.  Successful applicants will receive an electronic status permit rather than a physical card.

Who can apply?

All frontier workers who are working in the UK before 31 December 2020 are eligible apply.  Who are ‘frontier workers’? Essentially these are EU, EEA or Swiss nationals who are employed or self-employed in the UK but who live primarily abroad.  Irish nationals will be eligible to apply to, but they are exempt from all visa requirements for the UK.

What you need to apply for a Frontier Worker Permit?

The applicant must be:

  • an EU, EEA or Swiss 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.

The applicant must the above criteria before 1 January 2021 and continue to meet the criteria up to submitting an application.

What does “not primarily resident in the UK” mean?

An individual will be treated as ‘not primarily resident in the UK’ if they have either:

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

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.

A frontier worker comes to the UK to undertake productive and paid work, which is not permitted under the UK’s visitor rules.  This permit is certainly a viable option for EU workers who travel regularly to the UK on for work but retain their residence in another European state.

Frontier Workers and Key Dates

  • From 10 December 2020, the frontier worker permit scheme will be open for applications for those with frontier worker status
  • 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 must apply for a visa through the new points-based immigration system
  • 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

We recommend employers of cross-border workers or businesses, relying on self-employed non-resident European nationals consider this permit as an option to continue with their working arrangements from 1 January 2021.

We have yet to confirm whether frontier workers will be eligible to apply for pre settled or settled status under the EU Settlement scheme (EUSS).

As frontier workers are not UK residents, they may not be eligible to apply for status under the EUSS.

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.