The Frontier Worker permit allows EEA nationals to continue to work in the UK whilst being primarily resident overseas. We look at who is eligible for this route and how to apply.
Who are Frontier Workers?
Frontier Workers, or ‘cross-border commuters’, is the term given to EEA citizens who are primarily based outside the UK but who undertake work physically in the UK.
Whilst the UK is in in the ‘grace period’, Frontier Workers can continue to enter and work in the UK freely.
In order to keep entering the UK as a Frontier Worker, EEA nationals will have to apply for the Frontier Worker permit. This is a free and straightforward application.
What are the requirements?
In general, applicants must:
- be an EEA citizen (which includes those from Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein);
- live outside the UK and not be primarily resident in the UK;
- have worked in the UK at least once in the 12 months before 31 December 2020 (whilst primarily living elsewhere); and
- have kept working in the UK at least once every 12 months since they started working here.
This route is applicable to both employed and self-employed workers. The work must be ‘genuine and effective’. Evidence such as a letter from an employer, a contract of work or evidence demonstrating membership of a professional body must be provided to demonstrate this.
If applicants have not worked in the UK at least once in a 12 month period, some exceptions can apply, such as if the applicant has ‘retained’ their worker or self-employment status (for instance, they have been made unemployed, or have been temporarily unable to work due to an illness or accident).
Applications can be made online, inside or outside of the UK, and supporting documents can also be provided as part of the application. Unfortunately, family members are not included as dependants on this type of permit.
What counts as ‘not primarily resident’?
Assessing whether an applicant has not been primarily resident in the UK can be the most complex factor in this application. Further information is available in the Home Office caseworker’s guidance which is available here:
In general, an applicant is considered to not be primarily resident in the UK if they:
- have been present in the UK for less than 180 days in the 12-month period immediately before the submission of the application; or
- they have returned to their country of residence at least once in the six month period or twice in the 12 month period before the date of submission of the application. Exceptions do apply, including COVID-19 related delays and illnesses.
Home Office caseworkers will, in general, review the rolling 12 month period from 1 January 2020 until the date of submission of the application as part of this requirement.
When to apply?
At 11.00pm GMT on 31 December 2020 the transition period ended. A ‘grace period’ applies until 30 June 2021 during which Frontier Worker’s will not need to apply for, or provide, a Frontier Worker permit in order to enter the UK.
From 1 July 2021 different rules will apply to EEA citizens entering the UK. EEA citizens will not have the automatic right to work in the UK, as they did before 31 December 2020. Employers will be required to conduct right to work checks on them in order to establish a statutory excuse.
Applications for the Frontier Worker permit should be made in advance of 1 July 2021 therefore, in order to enter the UK from this date.
Of course, EEA citizens are able to enter the UK as visitors. But there are restrictions on the work related activities that visitors may do. Detailed information on such activities can be found here.
What are the benefits?
The Frontier Worker permit allows applicants to work, rent and access benefits and services (in certain circumstances) in the UK.
If granted, the Frontier Worker permit is generally valid for five years if the applicant meets the criteria.
The permit will be valid for two years if the applicant meets the eligibility criteria as someone with retained status or six months if the applicant has been made involuntarily unemployed. This can be renewed as long as the applicant continues to be a Frontier Worker.
Are there any alternatives?
Apart from the Intra-Company Transfer Worker and Skilled Worker route, the main option for EEA citizens would be an application for ‘pre-settled’ or ‘settled’ status under the EU Settlement Scheme.
This is also a free and straightforward application, and applicants generally need to show residence of less than five years (for pre-settled status) or more than five years (for settled status). Once granted applicants can continue to enter and work in the UK.
Pre-settled status is valid for five years after which it can be ‘upgraded’ to settled status. Settled status is permanent, but can be lost in certain circumstances.
However, only individuals who can demonstrate they were resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 will be eligible to apply for status under the EU Settlement Scheme. If granted pre-settled status, it should be noted that applicants must be resident for at least six months per rolling 12-month period to meet a future application for settled status. This route may not therefore be appropriate long-term for those who travel regularly.
How our immigration solicitors can help
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