How to apply for the frontier worker permit

Blogs 7 Dec 2021

Since 1 July 2021, a new frontier worker permit has been a requirement for those who work in the UK but live abroad. Find out who might need a permit and how to apply with our guide.

This content was last reviewed on 7 December 2021

As free movement has now ended, there are new rules regarding immigration and working in the UK. If you employ someone who is a resident overseas but works in the UK, you should consider whether they need a frontier worker permit to continue working in the UK.

What is a frontier worker?

A frontier worker is someone who lives overseas but comes to the UK temporarily to work. If your employee was a frontier worker on or before 31 December 2020, they were able to use their passport or national identity card to travel to the UK and work until 30 June 2021. Since 1 July 2021, a new frontier worker permit is required by those who work in the UK.

What is a frontier worker permit?

The frontier worker permit allows workers to enter the UK and show their right to work, rent and access benefits and services where eligible, including NHS healthcare services. The permit applies to cross-border workers who aren’t a UK resident and who may not be eligible for the EU settlement scheme.

Businesses in industries such as construction will be able to allow employees to work in the UK on a temporary basis, for example to work on a specific contract.

Read the full guidance on considering applications from frontier workers.

Who can apply for the permit?

To be eligible, all of the following must apply:

  • you’re from the EU, EEA or Switzerland
  • you live primarily outside of the UK
  • you have worked in the UK by 31 December 2020
  • you have kept working in the UK at least once every 12 months since you started working here

Irish citizens won’t need to apply as they will be covered by the Common Travel Area arrangements.

Does this apply to the self-employed?

Yes, it applies to employed and self-employed workers. As long as the work is considered ‘genuine and effective’ – more than just an interview or signing a contract, for example - then you can apply for the frontier worker permit.

The Home Office offers further guidance on what counts as ‘genuine and effective’ work.

What does ‘primarily outside of the UK’ mean?

You may be eligible if:

  • you’ve spent less than 180 days in total in the UK over the course of any 12-month period
  • in the 12-month period, you returned to the country you live once every six months or twice in the 12-month period.

How long does the permit last?

The permit will last for five years, or two years if you apply with retained status.

How to apply for the permit

Applications are free and can be made online from inside or outside the UK. However, you may need to pay to submit biometric information, like photographs or fingerprints.

You’ll be informed if you need to attend an appointment at a visa application centre.

Depending on your status, you may be asked for:

  • a valid passport or national identity card
  • employment contracts and payslips
  • evidence of contracts to work in the UK and copies of invoices for work carried out in the UK
  • evidence for which criteria you meet for retained status

What if the worker is not eligible?

If you’re hiring from outside the UK and the individual did not work in the UK before 1 January 2021, they may need to apply for a visa under the new immigration system. Check which type of visa is required on the government website. As an employer, you’ll also need a sponsor licence.

Hiring talent from abroad?

We’re here to help. FSB members can access specialist immigration support as well as guidance and advice from our trusted partner with clear, discounted fixed costs for FSB members, as well as employment guidance and advice from our 24/7 legal and HR helpline.  

To find out more about any of these services, please log into your member dashboard and go to FSB Legal Hub. You will see a dedicated section on immigration with guides and resources, and if needed, you can find out more about the fee-paying services too.

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