Frontier Worker Permit

Effective from 1 January 2021, a fresh permit was introduced to cater to frontier workers. These individuals, often EU citizens, who engage in employment in the UK while not being primary residents, are classified as cross-border workers. Previously benefiting from EU’s free movement regulations, these privileges ceased with the conclusion of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020. 

Consequently, the frontier worker permit aims to fill the void created by Brexit by ensuring the continuity of a mobile cross-border workforce. 

Significant Dates 

For those intending to apply for a frontier worker permit related to Brexit, pivotal dates must be considered.

As stipulated in The Citizen’s Rights (Frontier Workers) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, a frontier worker is someone who satisfies the criteria prior to 31 December 2020 and maintains this eligibility when applying for the permit. Hence, an applicant needs to have been employed in the UK by 31 December 2020 to qualify. While the need to possess the permit to enter the UK arises only from 1 July 2021 (EU frontier workers employed in the UK by 31 December 2020 are granted a six-month grace period between January 2021 and June 2021 for applying), individuals not having worked in the UK before the end of 2020 won’t be eligible to apply. 

Eligibility 

The fresh regulations outline the eligibility criteria as follows: 
  • They possess EU, EEA, or Swiss nationality
  • They are not primarily residing in the UK
They are one of the following: 
  • Employed in the UK 
  • Self-employed in the UK 
  • Holding the status of being self-employed/a worker under EU law

Upon delving into the requirements, it’s evident that the provisions are generous. For instance, the broad interpretation of ‘not normally resident’ provides leeway for engaging in economic activities without frequent obligations to return to one’s home country. 

The regulations specify that frontier workers should have returned to their country of residence at least once within the last six months or twice within the last 12 months preceding the relevant day, unless exceptional circumstances prevented this. 

The guidance highlights that Irish nationals do not need to apply for a frontier worker permit due to their right to enter, live, and work in the UK under the Common Travel Area arrangements

Furthermore, COVID-19 concessions within the guidance accommodate caseworkers assessing applicants affected by the virus. If an applicant’s economic activities in the UK were impeded by COVID-19, meeting employment requirements might still be feasible with appropriate evidence. 

Application Procedure 

Similar to EUSS applications, frontier worker applicants can utilize a smartphone app for applying. Successful app applicants receive a digital permit. Applicants who don’t use the app but complete the online form receive a physical permit. Approved frontier worker permits are valid for five years for workers and two years for the self-employed. 

Advantages 

Key benefits of frontier worker permits encompass: 
  • Facilitation of the transition from free movement to ongoing access to the UK for non-resident workers. 
  • Frontier worker status can be retained even if work ceases (e.g., due to illness, accident, childbirth). 
  • The permit is renewable indefinitely. 
  • Permit holders can rent properties and access benefits and services, including NHS healthcare, in the UK based on eligibility criteria. 

Drawbacks 

Perhaps the most crucial caveat is that the permit doesn’t lead to settlement. For those aiming to settle permanently in the UK, alternative applications under the EUSS would be more appropriate. Pre-settled status, for instance, provides EU workers with a five-year permit for continued employment in the UK. 

Additionally, family members cannot apply as dependents of a frontier worker. 

It’s vital to note that the permit doesn’t grant leave to enter or remain under the Immigration Act 1971; the holder is exempt from immigration control. Consequently, the frontier worker permit signifies a right of entry to the UK and won’t lead to indefinite leave to remain. 

For workers accustomed to the freedom of movement under EU law, the frontier worker permit is likely to be a welcomed avenue to continue working in the UK. 

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