In recent years, there has been an increase in commuters travelling internationally for work for a variety of reasons, such as the development of high-speed rail links and cheap air travel. An EEA national’s ability to work in this way in the UK is underpinned by the principle of free movement of people within the EU. With free movement of people with the UK coming to an end on 31 December 2020, the Frontier Worker Permit has been introduced to protect those whose career and lives have relied on this ability to commute freely.
To be eligible for the Frontier Worker Permit applicants must:
- Be an EEA national;
- Not be primarily resident in the UK;
- Be a worker or self-employed person in the UK.
Applicants must have met these requirements immediately before the 31 December 2020 and have continued to meet them since this date. Individuals that start commuting to the UK from 1 January 2021 will therefore not be eligible and may need to obtain a Skilled Worker visa under the new Immigration Rules.
With regards to the second requirement, a person will be treated as not being primarily resident in the UK if either:
- They have been present in the UK for less than 180 days in 12 months prior to making the application; or
- They have returned to their country of residence either once in the last 6 months or twice in the last 12 months prior to making the application.
- Retained Frontier Worker Status
There are provisions allowing someone who has temporarily stopped working in the UK to still be considered a frontier worker. The relevant reason must have been in the last 12 months and includes, being temporarily unable to work due to illness or an accident, voluntarily stopping work to start vocational training related to previous work or due to pregnancy or childbirth.
- Rights Under a Frontier Worker Permit
Successful applicants will have a right of admission into the UK and the permit is valid for 5 years, unless they have applied on the basis of retained frontier worker status in which case a 2-year permit will be granted.
Significantly, this route does not lead to a right to settle in the UK. There is however no limit on the amount of times it can be renewed and no deadline to apply, provided the definition of a frontier worker is met immediately before the 31 December 2020 and the applicant has continued to meet this.
Eligible frontier workers can continue to enter the UK using their EEA passport until 1 July 2021 however a permit must be obtained to enter beyond this date.
- Family Members
Family members of a frontier worker are not covered under the regulations and will need to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) if they wish to join a frontier worker in the UK.
The frontier worker permit may be a good option for those that cannot meet the requirements of status under the EUSS, for instance due to exceeding the amount of permitted absences or for eligible applicants that have acquired pre-settled status but have had too many absences to obtain settled status. The main downside of the permit is that there is no direct route to settlement in the UK, so applicants will need to keep renewing, unless they stop working and no longer meet the requirements.
For EEA nationals that have no intention to reside in the UK permanently but still need to enter to continue their work, this route could be very beneficial and would allow this arrangement to continue.