As many UK businesses will know, there is a reasonably sizeable European population whose normal commute (pre-Covid) involved a trip on Eurostar or a quick flight from Paris to London, or any other European and UK location. With free movement there were no visa issues to consider. With the end of free movement, on 31 December 2020, a mechanism is needed to enable these working arrangements to continue. This is where the frontier worker permit comes in. 

What is a frontier worker?

A frontier worker is a European Economic Area (EEA) citizen (not a dual British citizen), who is not primarily resident in the UK and who is a worker or self-employed person in the UK before the end of the transition period. 

What does “before the end of the transition period” mean?

The person must have worked or been engaged in self-employment in the UK at least once in the 12 months before 11pm GMT on 31 December 2020.

What does “not primarily resident” mean?

A person is to be treated as not being primarily resident in the United Kingdom by the end of the transition period if they have been present in the United Kingdom for less than 180 days in the 12-month period immediately before the end of the transition period and, unless there are exceptional reasons for not having done so, they have returned to their country of residence at least, either once in the 6-month period or twice in the 12-month period immediately before end of the transition period.

What counts and employment/self employment in the UK?

While there is no minimum number of hours, the work or self-employment activity  whilst in the UK must be genuine and effective, and not marginal and ancillary to their lifestyle as a whole. Genuine employment may have no formal contract but should have:

• an employer

• an agreement between employer and employee that the worker will perform certain tasks

• confirmation the employer will pay for the tasks performed

The Home Office must be satisfied the person is required to be present in the UK working and must also be satisfied they have received payment for the work carried out in the UK.

What do frontier workers need to know and do?

From 1 July 2021, a frontier worker will need a permit to enter the UK as a protected frontier worker.

During the grace period, from 11pm GMT on 31 December 2020 to 30 June 2021, it is not mandatory for a frontier worker to have applied for or to produce a frontier worker permit to enter the UK as a frontier worker.

A permit can be secured by making an online application and providing biometric information, either in the UK or outside the UK. This would be supported with evidence of identity and evidence of satisfaction of the requirements, for example a UK employment contract, payslips or copies of invoices for work carried out as a self employed person and evidence of primary residence being located outside the UK.

Applications are free of charge.

A frontier worker permit is granted for 5 years (or 2 years if based on retained status) and is extendable.

Frontier workers have the right to come to the UK to work for as long as they remain a frontier worker. To maintain their frontier worker status they must continue to come to the UK for the purpose of work or self-employment at least once in every rolling 12-month period from their first instance of work or self-employment in the UK in 2020.

Irish nationals may secure a frontier worker permit if they wish but they do not need one to continue to enter the UK after the end of the grace period.

Family members cannot apply as dependants to a frontier worker permit. The route does not lead to settlement.

For more information on this or any UK immigration matters contact Emma Brooksbank at