Frontier Worker Permit
When it comes into force
It comes into force on 1 January 2021 and is aimed at cross-border or “frontier” workers.
Frontier workers are people who work in one country but who live primarily in another. Free movement laws enabled this working pattern to develop and flourish within the EU, but Brexit has left frontier workers who commute into the UK in a precarious position.
Who is eligible for a frontier worker permit?
For the purposes of getting a permit, a frontier worker is someone who met the following criteria before 31 December 2020 and has continued to meet them since:
- They are an EEA national (including Swiss nationals)
- They are not primarily resident in the UK
- And they are one of the following:
- A worker in the UK
- Self-employed in the UK
- A person who has retained the status of being self-employed/a worker
So the frontier worker permit is only available to those who begin working in the UK before 31st December 2020 and who continue in this working pattern until they come to apply.
There is no deadline for making an application, so the frontier worker permit may function as a handy backup option for EEA nationals who need to move into this category once they are unable to qualify in another.
What does “not primarily resident” mean?
Someone is considered as primarily resident in the UK if they can show one of the following:
- They have been present in the UK for less than 180 days in the 12 month period immediately before the relevant day
- 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 day unless there are exceptional reasons for not having done so.
How often do you have to come to the UK to qualify?
It depends to a large degree on how the Home Office interprets who is and who is not a “worker”. Under EU case law, work must be “genuine and effective” to benefit from free movement rights, but there is little consensus about how this translates into hours on the job.
How do you “retain” frontier worker status?
It allows a worker to retain their frontier worker permit if they have had to stop working due to a range of circumstances. These include stopping work due to illness or an accident, unemployment, vocational training, pregnancy or childbirth.
Someone falling into one of these categories can retain their frontier worker permit for two years (or six months if they have stopped working due to unemployment after working in the UK for less than a year).
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What is the application process?
It is done online, via the gov.uk website. Applicants need to submit evidence of their identity and their frontier worker status. They then receive an electronic status rather than a physical ID card, similar to what is granted under the EU Settlement Scheme.
Frontier workers do not need a permit to enter the UK until after 30 June 2021 — so they have the six-month grace period between January and June 2021 in which to apply.
What do you get if successful?
If approved, the frontier worker permit is valid for five years for workers, but only two years for the self-employed and workers who have retained frontier worker status. If someone ceases to be a frontier worker they are at risk of having the permit revoked and being removed from the UK.
The permit does not confer leave to enter or remain under the Immigration Act 1971; the holder is exempt from immigration control.
It therefore does not lead to indefinite leave to remain (settlement) in the UK. The permit can be renewed but it’s not likely to allow the holder to clock up time towards a ten-year long residence application due to the strict absence criteria. Anyone wanting to secure long term status in the UK will need to consider their options under the EU Settlement Scheme or the general work visa system.
Can applications be refused?
Loss of frontier worker status can lead to an application being refused, as can reasons of public policy, public security or public health.
An application can also be refused on the ground that there is a “misuse” of frontier worker rights. This is a sort of genuineness test: there will be a misuse of rights if someone intends to “obtain an advantage from the immigration rules by engaging in conduct which artificially creates the conditions required to satisfy the criteria set out in the immigration rules”.
Administrative review and appeal rights are available from 31 December 2020.
- We can advise on the procedure, requirements and merits of making an application for leave to enter or remain in a Frontier worker visa category;
- We can advise and represent our clients in making representations in support of their immigration matters;
- We can advise on the merits of an administrative review in the event of any refusal and represent clients in appeals.
Whatever the case, we are here to assist, advise and represent our clients in relation to any aspect of their immigration matters.back to top