Is the Frontier Work Permit the Solution for Your UK Business and Hiring EU Workers? banner


Is the Frontier Work Permit the Solution for Your UK Business and Hiring EU Workers?

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With the closure of the EU Settlement Scheme to all EU nationals who entered the UK before the end of the Brexit transition period but failed to apply for settled status before the deadline of the 30 June 2021, where does that leave UK business owners wanting to hire EU workers? One option may be the frontier work permit. In this blog our immigration solicitors take a look at the frontier work permit and the alternative options for recruiting EU workers.

UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors

For expert business immigration and employment law advice on hiring EU workers or to make a sponsor licence applicationcall the immigration law team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123or contact us online.

Hiring EU workers after the 30 June 2021

Let’s first of all look at your options if your business wants to hire an EU worker. With the end of free movement for EU citizens curtailing an EU workers right to live and work in the UK free of immigration controls, the options for hiring EU worker are now:

  • Recruit an EU worker who has secured settled status or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. If the EU recruit entered the UK before the 31 December 2020 but did not apply for settled status before the 30 June 2021, they may still be able to do so if they have a reasonable excuse for a late settled status application. Your business may be able to wait for them to submit an urgent settled status application.
  • Hire an EU worker on a skilled worker visa but to recruit on a work visa your business will need to have obtained a Home Office issued sponsor licence to enable you to sponsor EU and non-EEA workers on skilled worker visas. The jobs your business needs to fill will also need to meet the required skill level and meet the minimum salary threshold.
  • Employ an EU national on a graduate visa. This visa route opened on the 1 July 2021 and gives the UK employer and the EU or non-EEA graduate far more flexibility. The employer doesn’t need a sponsor licence and there is no minimum skill level, required job description or salary threshold needed to secure a graduate visa.
  • Recruit an EU worker on a Tier 5 temporary worker visa but this option won't be suitable if you need to fill a long-term vacancy.
  • Hire an EU national on a frontier work permit.

What is the frontier work permit?   

In December 2020, the UK government introduced the frontier work permit scheme. The frontier work permit enables EU nationals who started working in the UK on or before the 31 December 2020 to continue to work in the UK without first securing settled status or needing a work visa, such as a skilled worker visa or a temporary visa or an intra company transfer visa. Seven months later, in July 2021, the government introduced new frontier work permit rules and requirements.

Who qualifies as a frontier worker?

A frontier worker is defined as an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen who is employed or self-employed in the UK but primarily resident elsewhere. Therefore, if your proposed recruit is from a non-EEA country they won't qualify unless they have secured EEA nationality.

How can frontier work make sense for a UK employer? 

Frontier working can make sense whether or not your business is an international company or not. For example, if you own a construction company in the south east it may be practicable for construction workers or employees in the hospitality sector to live in accommodation provided and commute back to their primary home outside the UK, for example, Northern France.

For multi-national companies, where employers have experienced senior workers who know the business in the UK and overseas, it can make sense for the EU national to split their time working in the EU and the UK. For example, an EU fund manager who spends two days a week at the London  office or the senior architect who can oversee developments in more than one country.

Whilst some employers and employees reject the solution of a frontier work permit out of hand those who try it say that the commute between countries and provision of accommodation for overnight stays can actually be a better option than a daily commute from Surrey or Kent to the heart of the city of London.

Eligibility criteria for a frontier work permit

In order to meet the eligibility criteria for a frontier work permit the worker must be:

  • An EU, EEA or Swiss national.
  • Live primarily outside the UK.
  • A worker who was working in the UK before the end of free movement on the 31 December 2020.
  • A worker who does a genuine and effective job in the UK. In other words, the job can't be a device to avoid a worker having to apply for a skilled worker visa.
  • A worker who has continued to work in the UK at least once every twelve months since the date the EU national began working in the UK.

What does primarily resident overseas mean when applying for a frontier work permit?

Normally the Home Office will be satisfied that an EU worker is primarily resident overseas if the worker can show how much time they have spent in the UK during the twelve-month period or since the 1 January 2020. The Home Office should be satisfied that a worker’s primary residence is overseas if:

  • The EU national has spent less than 180 days in the UK during any rolling twelve-month period starting from the 1 January 2020 until the date of the frontier work permit application or
  • The EU worker spent more than 180 days in the UK during the relevant twelve-month period, but the EU national went back to their home country or country of residence at least once every six months or at least twice in the relevant twelve-month period.

If your EU worker doesn’t quite fit into those categories, they may still meet the eligibility criteria for a frontier work permit. For example, if they were affected by COVID-19 travel restrictions or if they were unwell or bereaved.

What work can a frontier work permit holder do?

A frontier work permit holder can do any type of work. Their activities aren’t restricted and there is no minimum salary threshold. That makes the frontier work permit a lot more flexible than the skilled worker visa, provided that travel isn’t an issue for the EU worker.

Importantly, from the point of view of a UK business owner, the frontier worker doesn’t have to keep their job to maintain frontier worker status as there is an option of retained worker status for those frontier workers who are in-between jobs.

How long does a frontier work permit last for?

A frontier work permit lasts for five years but the rules are different for retained status. There is no limit on the number of times an EU employee can apply for a frontier work permit but the permit won't lead to settlement in the UK .

Is the frontier work permit the solution for your UK Business and your EU workers?

The frontier work permit is the right solution when it comes to retaining or hiring some EU workers. Whatever route a UK business goes down in its quest to hire EU nationals the key point is that the UK business must be satisfied that all their employees, including EU citizens, have the right to work in the UK. If a business fails to carry out correct right to work checks there are serious consequences for the company of not complying with the prevention of illegal working legislation.

UK Online and London Based Immigration and Employment Solicitors 

For expert immigration and employment advice on hiring EU workers or to make a sponsor licence application call the immigration law team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123or contact us online. Appointments are available by phone or video call.

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