What is the frontier worker permit scheme?
The frontier worker permit has been designed for individuals who are classified as frontier workers.
The definition of a frontier worker is an individual who lives primarily in one country, but works in another country.
If you hold frontier worker status, you have the right to:
- Access benefits and services (including the NHS), if you can demonstrate you meet the eligibility requirements
The advantage of this route is that there is no fee to apply for the permit, and there is no immigration healthcare surcharge required.
The situations of frontier workers can look very different and there is no uniform way of categorising every working situation.
For example, an EU citizen from Paris or Berlin who works between London and their home city may be considered a frontier worker, or an EEA national residing in Ireland and working in Northern Ireland (e.g., cross-border workers).
Individuals who were working in the UK prior to December 31st 2020 are protected under the Withdrawal Agreement, which ensured that frontier workers could continue to do so even after Britain left the EU.
If you have any questions about whether you are eligible for the frontier worker permit scheme, contact our specialist immigration lawyers today who are available to assist with your case.
Who can apply for the permit?
To understand if you are eligible to apply for the permit, you should identify whether the following circumstances apply to your case:
- You are a citizen of an EU country, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein
- Your primary residence is outside the UK
- You started working in the UK by December 31st 2020
- You were, and have continuously been a worker
- Or, self-employed
- Or, a person treated as self-employed or as a worker under Regulation 4
- You usually worked in the UK at least once every 12 months since your start date of work
Irish citizens do not need to apply for this permit, as they already have the right to live and work without a visa in the UK, but may do so if they wish.
Individuals living in Ireland who do not have Irish citizenship but are cross-border workers may need to apply. British citizens are ineligible to apply.
An ‘EEA citizen’ is a national of one of the following states: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, or Switzerland.
What are the residence requirements?
When submitting an application for the frontier worker permit scheme, you must demonstrate how you meet the residence requirements.
According to the Home Office guidance, individuals will be deemed eligible if they were not primarily resident in the UK immediately prior to 11pm GMT on December 31st 2020 and this continues to be true.
The guidance further states that an individual is not considered to be resident in the United Kingdom at a particular period (known as “the relevant date” if either of the following apply:
- The individual was present in the UK for fewer than 180 days in the 12 months before the relevant date
- Unless there are exceptional reasons for the individual to not have done so, they can prove that they returned to their country of residence at least either:
- Once in the six months immediately before the relevant date day
- Twice in the 12 months immediately before the relevant date day
Frequency of travel
Frontier workers may meet the definition of “not primarily resident in the UK” for the relevant period if they were present in the UK for over 180 days in any relevant 12-month period and if they have returned to their home country either:
- Once in every six months period or periods
- Twice in every 12-month period or periods
Applicants must provide proof of address outside the UK to demonstrate that their primary residence is outside the UK.
Home Office caseworkers are permitted to issue permits to individuals who do not meet the normal definition of “not primarily resident in the UK” if there is adequate evidence to show that they individual was unable to travel to their country of residence due to exceptional reasons.
What are the working requirements?
The definition of ‘work’ is a point that may cause some confusion for individuals applying on this route.
According to the Home Office guidance, a ‘worker’ and ‘self-employed person’ are considered along the same definition as Articles 45 and 49 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Individuals may apply for this route if they, immediately before the end of the transition period (11pm GMT on December 31st 2020), and ever since that time, were a worker or self-employed person undertaking work in the UK.
The definition of “immediately before” refers to the fact that a person must demonstrate how they met the requirement before the end of the transition period rather than another point in the past.
To qualify, a person must not have ceased being a worker or end their self-employment by this date.
Further, they must also continue to come and work in the UK for the purpose of work or self-employment at least “once in every rolling 12-month period from their first instance of work or self-employment in the UK in 2020.”
It is not essential for a worker to hold an employment contract to work in the UK, rather they must show they have a UK-based employer and an agreement that they will undertake work-related tasks in the UK.
The employee must be offered pay or services in return for the work. It may be useful to include a contract of employment of letter from a UK employer to bolster the application for a permit.
Individuals who work for themselves must demonstrate that their activities are genuine, effective, stable, and continuous.
This means that forms of temporary or irregular work undertaken by self-employed individuals will not be eligible for the permit.
How to apply for frontier worker status
The frontier worker permit application process must be completed online on the Gov.uk site. The documents you need to apply for the permit may include the following:
- Passport or valid national identity card
- Employment contract, contract to complete work, or employment letter/ agreement
- Evidence of your employment start date, your place of work, and the nature of the work
- Confirmation from the employer that the worker is required to travel to the UK for work purposes, including information
- Payslips or invoices demonstrating the pay you have received in exchange for your work
- Evidence of social security contributions in the UK based on work undertaken in the UK
- Copies of business accounts showing proof of payment for work
- Email or text communication showing work organised in the UK
- References from clients or examples of business advertising in the UK
- Evidence of future work engagements to be carried out in the UK
- Letters outlining proof of self-employed status
- Income tax letter from HMRC
The next step in the application process is to prove your identity.
Depending on an individual’s circumstances, frontier workers may be able to use the UK Immigration: ID Check app or alternatively, may be required to attend a visa application centre to submit biometric information.
If you application is approved, your permit will be issued for five years (if you are a worker or self-employed). If an individual holds retained frontier worker status, they will be issued their frontier worker status for just two years.
Holding the permit gives frontier workers the right to be exempt from immigration control, but does not indicate leave to enter or remain (as with indefinite leave to remain).
If you have a family member wishing to apply with you, they may have been eligible to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme, to receive settled status or pre-settled status. The deadline for most applicants was 30th June 2021 unless there were reasonable grounds for not applying.
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A frontier worker permit is an immigration permission that allows eligible EEA citizens whose primary residence is not the UK to come to the UK for work or self-employed work purposes.
One requirement is that frontier workers must have been working in the UK on or before 11pm GMT December 31st 2020.
Since July 1st 2021, individuals must hold this permit if they wish to continue coming to the UK for work purposes. Applications can be made on the Gov.uk website and there is no fee for this permit.
To receive a permit and become a frontier worker, you are required to complete the application process online on the Gov.uk website. You must submit your supporting documentation to demonstrate your eligibility.
The types of evidence you submit will vary depending in your circumstances. If you have any doubt about the information you need to prove your status, it is recommended to consult with a specialist immigration lawyer to assist you.
There are a number of ways to receive a work permit in the UK. Since the UK left the EU, there have been changes to the immigration routes for workers who wish to come to the UK.
If you are interested in working in the UK, you may be required to achieve 70 points under the new points-based system.