Frontier Worker Permit Scheme Launched
On 1 January 2021, the UK’s new points-based immigration system will come into effect. The new immigration system will introduce some important changes that Frontier Workers need to be aware of and plan for, including a new Frontier Worker Permit Scheme.
Who is a Frontier Worker?
If you are an EU, EEA, or Swiss Citizen, employed or self-employed in the UK, but not primarily resident in the UK, then you are a Frontier Worker (also known as a cross-border commuter).
You will be considered not primarily resident in the UK if at a particular point in time you can demonstrate either:
- That you have been present in the UK for less than 180 days in the 12 months prior to making an application; or
- You have returned to your country of residence at least once in the last 6 months, or twice in the last 12 months before making an application, unless there are exceptional reasons for not having done so
Frontier Worker Permit Scheme
On 10 December 2020, the Government launched the Frontier Worker Permit Scheme. If you are working in the UK before 31 December 2020, with Frontier Worker Status, you will be able to apply for a Frontier Worker Permit. Applications are free, and you do not have to pay the immigration health surcharge. You may have to pay to submit your biometric information (photographs, and/or fingerprints).
How and When to Apply for your Frontier Worker Permit
If, as per the criteria above, you are a frontier worker, you will need a permit to enter the UK from 1 July 2021. Until then, you can use your passport or national identity card to enter.
You must make your application online. When you have made your application, you will be told if you are required to attend an appointment at a Visa Application Centre, or, at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service (UKVCAS) Point.
Usually, you will not need an appointment if you can use a smartphone app and have a passport or ID card with a biometric chip.
Family Members of Frontier Workers
Family members will not be covered by your Frontier Worker Permit. They may, however, be eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme for settled or pre-settled status.
What the Frontier Worker Permit allows you to do
You can use your permit to enter the UK as a frontier worker, and show your right to:
- Rent; and
- Access benefits and services. This includes the NHS healthcare system, if you meet the relevant eligibility requirements.
Who can apply for a Frontier Worker Permit?
You can only apply for a Frontier Worker Permit if you are from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein, and, you:
- Live outside the UK; and
- Have worked in the UK before 31 December 2020; and
- Have kept working in the UK at least once every 12 months since you started working here.
You must live primarily outside the UK. You will meet this requirement if you have spent less than 180 days in total in the UK over the course of any 12-month period.
If you have spent 180 days or more in the UK within 12 months, you may still be eligible if you have returned to the country you live in at least either once every six months, or, twice in the 12-month period.
Exceptional circumstances which have resulted in you being unable to travel to your country of residence will be taken into consideration and you may still be eligible to apply.
Working in the UK as a Frontier Worker
You must have started working in the UK whilst living elsewhere on or before 31 December 2020, either as an employed or self-employed person. You must come to the UK to work at least once every 12 months.
You will be eligible to work in the UK as long as your work is ‘genuine and effective’. This means it must be more than small, one-off tasks (such as an interview, signing a contract, or taking part in a one-off competition).
If you have not worked in the UK during a 12-month period, you may still be eligible. You must have worked in the UK whilst living elsewhere, before 31 December 2020.
During the 12-month period that you were not working, one of the following must apply:
- You were/are temporarily unable to work due to illness or an accident;
- You were working in the UK but are now involuntary unemployed, and are currently seeking employment in the UK;
- You are currently in vocational training whilst unemployed, and the training is related to previous employment;
- You were/are temporarily unable to work due to pregnancy or recent childbirth; or
- You were/are on maternity or paternity leave, and you will return to previous employment or find another job after such leave.
If any of the above apply, you will have ‘retained worker’ or ‘retained self-employed person’ status.
Documents you will need to apply for a Frontier Worker Permit
You will need your valid passport or national identity card. You will be told which documents you need to provide, when you apply. Some will depend on whether you are employed or self-employed. If you are employed, you may, for example, be required to provide an employment contract, or contracts to work in the UK. If you are self-employed, you may be asked to provide payslips, or copies of invoices for work carried out in the UK.
If you have retained status, you may be asked for evidence for which criteria you meet. For example, if you have been unable to work for the last 12 months due to illness, you may be asked to provide a letter from your doctor. If you have been unable to work as you are unemployed but seeking work, you may be asked to provide copies of recent job applications or evidence of interviews.
Proving your Identity for a Frontier Worker Permit application
You will need to be able to prove your identity for your application. How you are able to do this will depend on whether you are applying using a passport or national identity card. You may be eligible to use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ application.
You will either be able to:
- Use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ application to scan your identity document; or
- Attend an appointment to have your photograph and fingerprints taken (at a Visa Application Centre if you are applying from outside the UK, or at a UKVCAS service point if you are applying from within the UK.
If you make a successful application for a Frontier Worker Permit
If your application for a Frontier Worker Permit is approved, you will receive a decision notice confirming the same. If you applied using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ application, you will be issued a digital version of your permit.
If you did not use the application, you will either be sent a physical version of the permit (if you applied from within the UK), or, an email explaining how you can come to the UK and collect your physical permit (if you applied from outside the UK).
If you are an employed worker then your permit will be valid for 5 years.
If you are self-employed or you have retained Frontier Worker status then your permit will be valid for 2 years.
Whilst working in the UK you will usually have to pay tax on your UK income. You can change jobs or move from being employed, to being self-employed, without needing to inform the Home Office.
If you stop working in the UK and do not meet any of the retained status criteria, you will need to inform the Home Office.
Renewing your Frontier Worker Permit
When you renew your Frontier Worker Permit, you will need to show that you continuously met the eligibility requirements throughout the time you were working, and still meet them at the time of renewal.
If you are not employed or self-employed at the time you need to renew or you are temporarily unable to work, and you meet one of the retained status criteria, you will still be able to apply for a 2-year permit as someone with retained status.
Whilst Frontier Worker Permits will confer a right of admission to the UK, they will not provide leave to enter or remain in the UK.
Your Frontier Worker Permit can be renewed, but obtaining a permit under this route will not lead to settlement in the UK.
If you wish to pursue settlement or long-term status in the UK, you should consider making an application for pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, or leave to enter or remain under the new Skilled Worker route.
Frontier Workers working in the UK from 1 January 2021
If you are non-British or non-Irish, and you intend to begin employment in the UK whilst residing outside of the UK, but do not start working until, on, or after 1 January 2021, then you will not be eligible for a Frontier Worker Permit. You will instead need to apply to enter the UK under a different work route under the new points-based immigration system, including via the new Skilled Worker route.
Contact our Business Immigration Barristers
For expert advice and assistance regarding the rights of cross-border workers, applying for a Frontier Worker Permit or applying for a Skilled Worker visa, contact our business immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.