USA and the UK
What is a Frontier Worker Permit?
A Frontier Worker Permit is a visa designed for those workers who primarily reside outside in such places as the European Union (EU), Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein but are employed in the UK. Irish citizens can apply for a Frontier Worker Permit but it is currently not necessary.
Under the Frontier Worker Permit, visa holders are allowed to enter the UK to live and work. They can rent properties and have access to benefits and services provided they meet the relevant requirements. Frontier Worker Permits holders can use the National Health Services (NHS) while in the UK without having to pay the immigration health surcharge as other immigrants do.
This visa was created after the UK split from the EU when EU workers no longer had the right to move freely between the UK and EU countries. After the Brexit transition period ended on December 31st, 2020, those living and working in the UK could either apply for either settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme to stay in the UK indefinitely or apply for Frontier Worker Permits which will allow them to continue their work in the UK but keep their primary residence outside of the country.
This permit does not allow the holder to make the UK their permanent home or bring their family member with them to the UK under this permit. If family members of the permit holder wish to come to the UK, they must separately apply for visas themselves.
- What is a Frontier Worker Permit?
- Who is eligible for a Frontier Worker Permit?
- What is eligible work?
- Am I eligible for the Frontier Worker Status if I am unemployed?
- What are the required documents for frontier workers?
- How do I get a Frontier Worker permit?
- What happens if my Frontier Worker application is approved?
- What happens if my Frontier Worker application is denied?
- How can IAS help me with my application?
Who is eligible for a Frontier Worker Permit?
To be eligible for a Frontier Worker Permit, you must meet the following requirements:
- you are from an EU country, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein
- your primary residence is outside of the UK
- your work in the UK began before 31 December 2020
If your work began on January 1st, 2021 or after, you will need to apply for a UK worker visa. If you were working in the UK prior to January 1st, 2021 but experienced bouts of unemployment or were unable to work during that time, you may still be eligible for a Frontier Worker Permit.
In addition, you must be able to prove that you have a primary residence in a country outside the UK. This means that in the past 12-month period, you have not spent more than 180 days in the UK. If you have spent more than 180 days living in the UK, you can still be eligible if you returned to your home country once every 6 months or at least twice in the 12-month period.
Again, Irish citizens do not need a Frontier Worker Permit. They can continue to work in the UK while still keeping their primary residence in Ireland.
What is eligible work?
In order to be eligible for a Frontier Worker Permit, you must have:
- Worked in the UK prior to January 1st, 2021 either as an employed or self-employed person at least once every 12 months
- Maintained your primary residence outside the UK
- Done eligible work
The Home Office classifies ‘eligible work’ as work that is ‘genuine and effective’. This work is not small, one-off tasks such as attending an interview or short meetings, negotiating or signing a deal/contract, or participating in a one-off competition or audition. Self-employed people must also be engaged in genuine and effective economic activity in the UK that is stable and continuous (not providing services on a temporary basis).
In order for work to be considered ‘genuine and effective,’ there must be a genuine employer-employee relationship where work is done in the UK frequently. There are other considerations that can prove genuine and effective work. If you have any questions on what qualifies as eligible work, contact an experienced immigration attorney who can discuss your options with you further.
Am I eligible for the Frontier Worker Status if I am unemployed?
If you have been unable to work or unemployed in the UK during a 12-month period, you can still be eligible for a Frontier Worker permit if:
- You were temporarily unable to work due to an illness or accident
- You were temporarily unable to work due to pregnancy or had given birth
- You were unable to travel to the UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic
- You were voluntarily unemployed and participating in vocational training that was related to your previous job
- You were involuntarily unemployed but were looking for work in the UK or participating in vocational training during your unemployment
If you were unemployed due to these circumstances, you may have ‘retained worker’ or ‘retained self-employed person’ status. During this time of involuntary unemployment, you can keep your status for 6 months in order to look for work in the UK. if you have worked in the country for less than a year before becoming unemployed. If you worked in the UK for a year or more before becoming unemployed, you can keep your status for long as you want on the condition that you are looking for work at this time.
In order to prove that you are looking for work, you will need to register as a jobseeker with an unemployment office and provide evidence to them that you continuing to look for work in the UK.
What are the required documents for frontier workers?
To apply for a Frontier Worker Permit, you will need to supply the following information in your application:
- 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 self-employed)
If you are applying and have a ‘retained’ status, you will need to provide documents that support the reason why you are involuntarily unemployed. For example, you may need to provide a letter from a doctor if you were unemployed due to illness or pregnancy. In addition, you will also need to provide evidence proving that you are continuing to look for work. These may include invitations to interviews, recent job rejection letters, or copies of applications submitted.
How do I get a Frontier Worker permit?
Applications for Frontier Worker permits are done online via the gov.uk website. You can apply for a Frontier Worker Permit both outside and inside the UK.
When you apply you will be asked to confirm your identity. You can do this with biometric data that was collected at a visa application center or through the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ smartphone app that will scan your identity documents and upload them to your UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) account. If you are inside the UK and can not use the smartphone app, you can have your photograph taken at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point. Usually, when you apply, you will be informed on what method of ID confirmation to use to complete the application.
For the application, you will need to supply your passport or another national identity card along with supporting documents like employment contracts or invoices if you are self-employed.
What happens if my Frontier Worker application is approved?
After you have filed your application for a Frontier Worker Visa, you will be sent a decision informing you on whether or not you have been approved. If your application is successful and you applied via the ‘UK Immigration: ID check’ smartphone app, you will be issued a digital version of your permit.
If you did not use the smartphone app, you will be sent with a physical version of the permit if you applied inside the UK or if you are abroad, you will be sent an email notification explaining how you can collect your permit once you have entered the UK.
Frontier Worker Permits are valid for 5 years. If you applied for the visa with ‘retained’ status, your permit will only last 2 years. However, you can extend the permit as long as you are able to meet the eligibility requirements.
What happens if my Frontier Worker application is denied?
If you applied for a permit and it was refused, you will receive a notice from the Home Office detailing the reasons why it was denied. The notice will also inform you if you have the right to appeal the decision either through an administrative review or an immigration decision appeal.
If you wish to appeal the decision, you will have 28 days to do so. As always, when it comes to the visa appeal process, it is highly recommended to seek expert legal advice and counsel from an experienced immigration attorney.
How can IAS help me with my application?
Working in the UK has gotten a bit more confusing post-Brexit. If you are a cross-border worker looking to continue working in the UK, we can help you with your application for a Frontier Worker Permit.
Our immigration lawyers stay up to date with the latest Home Office news and UK immigration guidelines. We can help guide you through every step of your application and make sure that it is completed to the very highest standard.
Contact us now on +1 844 290 6312 to speak with one of our expert lawyers about your Frontier Worker Permit application. Or, use our online contact form to speak with an adviser. We are here to help!
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There is no fee to apply for a Frontier Worker Permit. However, you will be responsible for any fees associated with acquiring your supporting documents and the collection of biometric information.
After you have been approved for a Frontier Worker Permit, you will be issued a digital permit immediately if you applied using the UK Immigration: ID check smartphone app. If you applied without the smartphone app, you will be sent a physical copy within 10 days (if you are already in the UK)
If you are looking to work in the UK and do not satisfy the requirements for a Frontier Worker Permit, you may be eligible for other UK Work visas such as the Skilled Worker Visa or Temporary Worker Visa. In order to do this, you will need to achieve at least 70 points in the UK Points Based System.