Frontier Worker Permit Application Guidance
In our modern and digitally connected world, the old notions of how we should live and work have been permanently altered. It was once normal to live close to your place of work, but with the explosion of modern transport, it became possible to commute over large distances. Some workers even live in one country and work in another; indeed, this is commonplace in the EU, with many who have their homes close to a border crossing the frontier to work. In this article, we will discuss the requirements for a UK Frontier Worker Permit and the documents which must be provided to the Home Office when submitting an application.
What is a frontier worker?
Frontier workers work in one country and live in another. The UK Frontier Worker Permits allow European nationals who reside in another country but have a job in the UK to travel to the UK for the purposes of their employment.
With a Frontier Worker Permit, you will have the right to work, rent a property, and access benefits and the NHS. However, the UK Frontier Worker Permit scheme does not provide a route to permanent settlement / ILR in the UK. If you intend to settle permanently in the UK, we recommend considering the Skilled Worker visa or, if eligible, applying under the EU settlement scheme instead. In addition, family members are not covered by the Frontier Worker Permit, however, they may be eligible to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme.
Who can apply for the Frontier Worker Permit
It is important to understand that Frontier Worker Permits are only available to European nationals who were already working here prior to the end of 2020. Frontier Worker Permit applicants must:
- Be from the EU or the EEA (including Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein)
- Live outside of the UK
- Have started working in the UK by 31st December 2020
If you were not working in the UK by 31st December 2020, you will need to apply for a visa rather than a Frontier Work Permit.
Irish nationals are exempt from the need to apply for a Frontier Work Permit.
Under the Frontier Worker Permit rules, applicants must live ‘primarily’ in a country outside of the UK. As the Frontier visa guidance explains, the way in which you meet this requirement will be based on the amount of time you have spent in the UK since 1st January 2020. Specifically, you will meet the residency requirements for the Frontier Worker Permit if you have spent less than 180 days over the course of any 12-month period since 1st January 2020.
You may still be eligible for a Frontier visa if you have spent 180 days or more in the UK within 12 months since 1st January 2021. This will be the case if, during that 12-month period, you returned to the country you live in at least either once every 6 months or twice in a 12-month period.
Furthermore, you may still be able to apply if you can show that there were exceptional circumstances that meant you were not able to travel to the country where you live (e.g. due to COVID-19, accident, or illness).
Frontier Worker Permit applicants must have
- started working in the UK while living in another country before 1st January 2021. This can be in an employed or a self-employed capacity
- For genuine and effective work – the Home Office will want to see that the job is for more than one-off tasks such as an interview or signing a contract.
- have worked in the UK as an employee or in a self-employed role at least once every 12 months
If you have not been able to work or have been unemployed in the UK during any 12-month period, it may still be possible to acquire a Frontier Worker Permit if you can show that you were:
- unable to work because of an illness or accident
- unable to work because you were pregnant or had given birth
- unable to enter the UK and work due to COVID-19
- voluntarily unemployed and undertaking vocational training relating to your previous occupation
- involuntarily unemployed, but you were looking for work in the UK or undertaking vocational training
According to the Frontier Worker guidance, if you fit into the above scenarios, you will be classed as a “retained worker” or a “retained self-employed person”.
If you are unsure if you meet the residency and/or work requirements for a Frontier Worker Permit, speak to our immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation on 020 3744 2797 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to apply for the Frontier Worker Permit
The application process is completed online, with the form you use differing depending on whether you are inside the UK or outside1.
When applying, you will need to provide copies of:
- a valid passport or national identity card.
- an employment contract, or contracts to work in the UK
- payslips or copies of invoices for work carried out in the UK
If you have ‘retained’ status, you will need to provide evidence of this. You will be provided with a precise list of documents you need to submit when applying, as these will vary depending on your employment type. You will also need to prove your identity using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app by attending a local visa application centre or a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point in the UK.
For information about retained status, check our article explaining the Retained Right of Residence
Frontier Worker Permit fees
There is no application fee for the Frontier Worker Permit. In addition, you will not be required to pay the healthcare immigration surcharge to access the UK’s National Health Service.
Frontier Worker Permit conditions
With a Frontier Worker Permit, you will be able to:
- Freely travel in and out of the UK for the purposes of work
- Prove your right to access public benefits and services
- Access NHS healthcare
- Prove your right to work or rent in the UK
With a Frontier Worker Permit, you will not be able to:
- Settle permanently in the UK (you will need to hold a qualifying visa for a certain number of years, typically 5 years, to gain ILR)
- Bring your family members with you
Frontier Worker Permit validity
Frontier Worker Permits are typically granted for 5 years if you are classed as a frontier worker. If you are a retained worker, you will be granted your permit for 2 years.
It is possible to extend your Frontier Worker Permit as long as you continue to meet the eligibility requirements and have done so since you last applied. If you have lost your job or you are no longer self-employed, you may still be able to renew your Frontier Worker permit if you have retained status.
Frontier Worker Permit and ILR
Time spent in the UK with a Frontier Worker Permit does not count towards ILR (permanent settlement in the UK). If you plan to settle in the UK, you will need to switch to or apply for a different visa. Work and visas that do count towards ILR include the:
Other options to consider include the family visa (if you have immediate family who is settled in the UK) or a late application under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).
To check which visas will provide you and your family members with a route to permanent settlement in the UK, speak to our immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation on 020 3744 2797 or by email at email@example.com.
How can Reiss Edwards help?
Reiss Edwards specialises in all aspects of work and business immigration law, including applications under the Frontier Worker Permit scheme. We can:
- Check if you are eligible for a Frontier Worker Permit
- Explain the visa options available to you and your family based on your long-term plans and individual circumstances.
- Prepare and submit your immigration application on your behalf and of your family members
- Liaise with the Home Office on your behalf regarding your application
- Make an extension application
- Apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain UK
- Apply for British citizenship
- Handle a refusal of a Frontier Worker Permit application by the Home Office.
Speak to our immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation on 020 3744 2797 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
1 GOV.UK: Frontier Worker permit application