02/12/2020 – Frontier workers application scheme opens 10th December
A new category of work permit has just been announced and regulations were published last week. The Frontier Worker permit will only apply to EU, EEA or Swiss citizens who meet certain criteria as at 31 December 2020…..UK employers seeking to rely on the new permit for new hires had better get their skates on…
What is a Frontier Worker?
An EU, EEA or Swiss citizen employed or engaged as a worker (or self-employed) in the UK, but who is not primarily resident in the UK. Irish citizens who are Frontier Workers don’t need to apply for Frontier Worker status – they can continue working in the UK.
This is a developing topic and we await further Home Office guidance on this matter, but so far we know that the definition of not ‘primarily resident’ includes people who:
- have been in the UK for less than 180 days in 12 months;
- have left the UK to return home at least once in 6 months or twice in 12 months
on the day before they make their application (the ‘relevant date.’)
Would a Frontier Worker include, for example, a French citizen employed by a UK Company who travels over to the UK for 2 meetings a year? What about another who spends virtually all their time in the UK and hardly ever goes home? The definitions above are extremely broad and could cover both these examples – we await further Home Office guidance.
Why is this significant?
The new points based immigration system arrives 1st January 2021. EU, EEA and Swiss citizens resident in the UK as of 31st December may apply for settled or pre-settled status by 30th June 2021. However, these categories require workers to demonstrate residency for a minimum period, and many EU, EEA and Swiss Citizens employed in the UK will fall outside of this requirement. The new Frontier Worker visa will enable these workers to continue entering the UK to work while they consider whether to apply for settled or pre-settled status.
Is there a catch?
Yes, a very important one. In order to qualify for a Frontier Worker visa, an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen employed in the UK will need to meet the qualification criteria (see above, What is a Frontier Worker?) before 31 December 2020. This visa cannot, therefore, be used for new hires of EU, EEA or Swiss citizens after 31st December, unless the new hire already qualified as a Frontier Worker with another UK employer. For those new hires without prior qualifying criteria, and who intend to start work after 1st January 2021, a standard visa will be required under the new Points Based Immigration System, prior to their commencing work in the UK.
Are there any exemptions e.g. for previous people who would have qualified as Frontier Workers, but are currently unemployed?
Yes. If an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen has previously met the qualification criteria but currently doesn’t, due to illness, accident, unemployment, vocational training, pregnancy or childbirth, they will still be able to apply for their Frontier Worker visa for up to two years, or six months in the case of someone who has been employed in the UK for less than a year, and who stopped working due to unemployment.
Is there a deadline on applications?
Frontier workers will be able to enter the UK without a permit until 30th June 2021, but must have submitted their applications before then.
How long will a Frontier Worker permit last?
5 years for workers, 2 years for the self-employed. For workers the term is reduced from 5 to 2 years if they qualify under one of the permitted exemptions described above, or to 6 months in the case of those who are unemployed after less than a year of employment in the UK.
How (and when) does someone apply to become a Frontier Worker?
The application system will open on a .gov.uk website on 10th December, and applications for people who meet the qualification criteria must be made by 30th June 2021. Until then frontier workers can continue to enter the UK with their normal national identity card or passport. We advise that applications are made as early as possible.