New immigration system – implications for frontier workers

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The transition from free movement to a points-based system is bound to affect workers’ rights. The government has recently published guidance on frontier workers’ rights after the 1 January 2021 and how such workers can obtain permits confirming their right to continue entering and working in the UK.

Who is a Frontier Worker?

A frontier worker is anyone from the European Union, European Economic Area, or Swiss national who is employed or self-employed in the UK but remains as a resident outside of the UK. Although the definition of a remaining resident outside the UK is broad, as long as the individual has not been in the UK for 180 days or more in any 12 month period, and providing they have returned to their country of origin at least once in the last 6 months (or twice in the last 12 months) they will meet the definition of a frontier worker for the new permit.

Frontier working before 1 January 2021

Frontier workers working in the UK before the 1 January 2021 deadline will be able to keep their frontier status. However, they will need to apply for a frontier worker permit by 30 June 2021. Although it is not possible to make applications just yet, further details are to follow later this year. The application process is expected to be similar to the EU Settlement Scheme in that it will be a free, online process, and applicants will have to submit evidence of their identity and frontier worker status. If successful, the applicant will receive a 5-year permit. However, this will not allow the holder to apply for settlement or indefinite leave to remain.

Frontier workers who have temporarily stopped working in the UK may still be eligible to apply for a frontier worker permit if they have held this position before, and if one of the following applies:

  • they have been temporarily unable to work because of an illness or accident
  • they were working in the UK but are now involuntarily unemployed, and are looking for work in the UK
  • they are in vocational training while involuntarily unemployed
  • they are in vocational training while unemployed, and the training is related to the work they carried out in their previous work
  • they are temporarily unable to work as a result of pregnancy or childbirth
  • they are on maternity or paternity leave, and will return to their previous employment, or find another job, at the end of this period.

Permits granted under these circumstances will only be valid for 2 years, not 5.

From 1 July 2021 frontier workers will need to hold a valid frontier permit if they want to continue entering the UK as a frontier worker.

Frontier Working from January 2021

From 1 January 2021, workers who want to work in the UK but live outside of its geographical limits, and those who have not previously worked as a frontier worker, may need to apply for leave to enter the UK through the new points-based system.

Similarly to the EU Settlement Scheme, Irish nationals do not need to apply for frontier worker status to continue working in the UK as a frontier worker from 1 January 2021 or at any time.

If you have any questions about any of the above or would like some advice about the new immigration system, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can also join us on 3rd

November for the free webinar we’re hosting on the topic.