Frontier Workers – what the new guidance means for you

Our latest Brexit Insight: Immigration series of webinars focusses on the impact of Brexit on workers and businesses since 31 December 2020. Our Immigration expert, Rachel Harvey, kicked off the first session by discussing the issues surrounding the new frontier worker permit and eligibility, including what a frontier worker is, what a frontier worker permit provides and what your obligations are as an employer for the next 6 months and beyond.

What are frontier workers?

Frontier workers were traditionally called cross border workers, so they work on one side of a border and live on another. These individuals can be self-employed or employed and must return home once a week to have the legal status of a frontier worker. On 31 December 2020, the Brexit transition period came to an end and this will affect certain frontier workers who are not eligible for EU settlement status, so these workers will need a frontier work permit to come to the UK from 1 July 2021 onwards.

Who is eligible for a frontier work permit?

You can only apply for a frontier work permit if you meet the following criteria:

  • the worker is from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein;
  • the worker has worked in the UK on or before 31 December 2020 (they will be eligible as long as their work in the UK is ‘genuine and effective’. This means it must be more than small, one-off tasks, such as an interview);
  • the worker has kept working in the UK at least once every 12 months since they started working here; and
  • they live outside of the UK.

In relation to the last point, individuals must live ‘primarily’ outside of the UK. How they meet this requirement depends on how much time they’ve spent here since 1 January 2020. They’ll be eligible if they’ve spent less than 180 days in total in the UK over the course of any 12 month period. If they’ve spent 180 days or more in the UK within 12 months.

They’ll still be eligible if, in that 12 month period, they returned to the country they live in at least either:

  • once every 6 months or
  • twice in the 12 month period.

There are exceptional circumstances in which the worker cannot travel back to their own home country such as travel disruptions due to Covid, illness or accident. This would need to be looked at on a case by case basis to determine whether the circumstances amount to exceptional circumstances and would amount to a form of exemption for this criteria or may be able to retain some kind of frontier worker status.

Anyone that is not eligible for a frontier worker permit will have to apply for a visa to come and work in the UK. We can provide specialist advice on the new visa rules and how one can enter the UK for work as these have all changed from 1 January 2021 to a points-based system. Please contact our specialist immigration team for further information and help.

What will the frontier worker permit provide?

Individuals can use their permit to enter the UK as a frontier worker and show their right to:

  • work;
  • rent; and
  • access benefits and services, including NHS healthcare
  • if they meet the relevant eligibility requirements.

This permit does not give leave to enter or remain but does give the individual access to the services mentioned above. However, family members cannot come to the UK based on a family member’s permit and are not covered by the frontier worker permits.

This permit will last for 5 years if the worker meets the eligibility criteria but if they do not meet the eligibility criteria then they can retain their existing frontier worker rights for 2 years. This can be renewed as long as they remain as a frontier worker in the UK.

The frontier worker permit does not cost a fee and it is recommend that the worker gets this permit if they are eligible as the Home Office are not making any changes to this route until post 30 June 2021, where the rules to enter the UK on a frontier worker permit may become stricter via this method.

The permit will be a digital permit which the worker can apply for or obtain via an app in their home country. Once they get to the UK they will be able to collect their physical permit and at the point of entry they can provide their frontier worker letter as proof. This is not mandatory for the next 6 months but will be post 30 June 2021, so to reiterate it is recommended that any frontier worker permit is applied for sooner rather than later.

This was the first webinar in our Brexit Insight: Immigration webinar series for the new year; further details of our next two sessions can be found on our events page here.

We highly recommended joining these sessions which will cover the impact of Brexit on UK businesses and personal immigration issues with their work force.

We will of course endeavour to answer any questions that may arise, however as these webinars are short in duration and cover a range of changes that are occurring, we appreciate that there will be some employers who may need further guidance moving forward. If you require any tailored advice, we are happy to help with all enquires and encourage employers to contact Rachel Harvey with any further queries.


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.


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