New rules for entering
the UK as a Frontier Worker

From 1 July 2021, new requirements are in place for those EU citizens seeking to enter the UK as a frontier worker.

On 10 December 2020, the UK opened the Frontier Worker Permit Scheme, an immigration route designed to allow European nationals who started working in the UK on or before 31 December 2020 to continue to work here following the end of free movement.

Now that the Brexit grace period has ended, Europeans will need to hold a valid permit to enter the UK as a frontier worker from 1 July. Below is a brief recap of the Frontier Worker Permit scheme, who is eligible and how to apply.

What is a Frontier Worker?

A frontier worker is an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen who is employed or self-employed in the UK but primarily resident elsewhere.

Frontier working is common in multinational companies, where employees split their time between working in multiple countries. The rise of cheap and convenient transport links between the UK and the rest of Europe has led to increased numbers of people undertaking this working pattern in previous years.

Although frontier working in Europe is not a new concept, since leaving the EU, the United Kingdom has laid out its own immigration process for those European nationals who work in the United Kingdom whilst being primarily resident overseas.

Who can apply for a Frontier Worker permit?

In order to be eligible to apply for a Frontier Worker permit, you must:

  • Be an EU, EEA or Swiss national
  • Live ‘primarily’ outside of the UK
  • Have worked in the UK before 31 December 2020
  • Have kept working in the UK at least once every 12 months since the date you began working here

You must also be able to demonstrate that the work you carry out in the UK is ‘genuine and effective’. This means it must be more than small, one-off tasks such as attending an interview or signing a contract.

Irish citizens’ rights are already protected under the Common Travel Area. They can apply for a Frontier Worker permit if they wish, but it is not a requirement. EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who wish to work in the UK and were not working here before 31 December 2020 will need to apply for permission under the points-based immigration system.

Residency requirement

In order to prove to the Home Office that you are ‘primarily resident’ overseas, you will need to demonstrate how much time you’ve spent in the UK over the course of a 12-month period since 1 January 2020. You will usually be eligible if either of the following apply:

  • You have spent less than 180 days in total in the UK during any rolling 12 month period between 1 January 2020 and the date of application
  • You have spent more than 180 days in the UK during a relevant 12 month period, but you returned to your country of residence at least once every six months, or twice in the 12 month period.

If you have been unable to travel to your country of residence due to exceptional circumstances such as COVID-19 or illness, you will still be able to apply.

If there has been a 12-month period where you have been unable to come to the UK to work due to medical reasons or unemployment, you may be able to ‘retain’ your status as a frontier worker, and still be eligible to apply for a permit.

What activities are permitted?

A Frontier Worker permit will grant the holder the permission to work, rent property and access benefits and services such as the NHS in the UK, providing they meet the relevant eligibility requirements.

Frontier workers will need to renew their permit every 5 years, or every 2 years if they applied with a retained worker status. Although the permit can be renewed indefinitely as long as the applicant still meets the eligibility requirements, it does not lead to settlement in the UK.

How to apply

Applications for the permit are submitted online via the website, and can be filed from outside or inside the UK. There is no fee to apply for the permit, and applicants do not need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. However, you may need to pay a fee to submit your biometric information.

Applicants will need to hold a valid passport or national identity card, and may be required to submit other supporting documentation such as an employment contract or a contract to work in the UK, payslips or copies of invoices for work carried out in the UK. To prove your identity as part of your application, you can use the UK Immigration: ID check smartphone app, or attend an appointment at a visa application centre.

Support with your application

If you require assistance with your application for a Frontier Worker Permit, Smith Stone Walters can help. To speak to a member of the team, please contact us today.

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