Immigration – the frontier worker permit, a useful option

Out-Law News | 29 Oct 2020 | 12:56 pm |

Louisa Cole tells HR News about the new frontier worker permit scheme, a useful option for those who travel frequently.
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  • Transcript

    HR NEWS – TRANSCRIPT – 30 OCTOBER 2020

    Immigration – new guidance on frontier workers

    The UK government has published new guidance on the position of frontier workers following the introduction of the UK's new immigration system on 1 January 2021.From that day the UK’s points-based immigration system comes into effect, and there are a number of important changes frontier workers need to be aware of. Their position will be complicated once free movement ends because while some may be eligible for a status under the EU Settlement Scheme, those who have spent less time in the UK may not be eligible. The key point, which is made by immigration specialist Jo Hennessy in Outlaw, is that employers who have got employees living in another country need to make sure those who are eligible to maintain their status do so and obtain the necessary frontier worker permit. She says whilst most employers will want to prioritise immigration statuses which can lead to UK settlement in the longer term, the frontier worker permit will be a useful option for those who travel frequently. To understand what this means in practice I phoned another of our team of immigration lawyers, Louisa Cole: I started by asking her what is meant by the term frontier worker:

    Louisa Cole: "So a frontier worker is basically an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen who is employed or self-employed in the UK, but they actually live elsewhere and post-Brexit their position is going to be quite complicated because obviously free movement is going to come to an end and while some individuals that are currently working in the UK, but living elsewhere, will be eligible for other statuses in the UK, such as via the EU Settlement Scheme for example, or a visa under the Points Based System, those who've spent less time in the UK to date might not be eligible. So this leaves employers with an issue and a potential group of cross border workers effectively, that aren't able to find a route under the current options available to them to obtain a status in the UK and to continue working as they've been doing previously and employers in the UK will obviously want to retain their talent and skills. So in remedy to this the government has introduced this frontier worker permit, and people who are eligible can apply for that from the first of Jan 2021, it's going to be an online application process and the document obtained will be an electronic one. So it's an electronic status, like the status that you can obtain under the EU Settlement Scheme. So I suppose the key takeaway, the key message, that we want employees to think about the moment is that the frontier worker permit is only going to be available to those who begin working in the UK and before the 31st of December 2020 and who continue working in this pattern of travelling into the UK, working for a bit but living, perhaps, in another country. Interestingly, although there isn't actually a deadline for making an application under this route, it's going to be a really, really, important sort of backup option for those employees and for the groups of individuals that employers are looking at that work on a cross border basis, that have explored other options under the immigration system, that have perhaps submitted an application by the EU Settlement Scheme and haven't been successful in obtaining a status such as a pre-settled status, or under satisfying the requirements for, for example, a Tier 2 intercompany transfer visa under the Points Based System because of the difficulties in meeting skill and salary level requirements, and it just basically gives a good backup option to allow individuals to continue carrying on cross border work."

    A related issue affecting work permits is the state of the ongoing trade negotiations. In just a few weeks' time the UK will be outside the EU single market and customs union and, as the BBC reports, firms are being urged to get ready for new EU relationship. A public information campaign titled "Time is running out" will urge firms to focus on the 1 January deadline and the need to ensure they adhere to new customs procedures, visa, work permits, and immigration rules. However, it is not yet clear what the trading relationship between the UK and the EU will be. So how, if at all, do the trade talks affect the issue of frontier workers specifically? Louisa again:

    Louisa Cole: "My understanding is that those negotiations will affect people in a similar position to frontier workers and we are receiving lots of questions from clients in a similar vein at the moment because there are groups of individuals that don't qualify for any other routes under the current immigration system options, or under the EU Settlement Scheme, because of the issues in evidencing residency. So, yes, the outcome of the trade deal negotiations will impact the group of individuals that the frontier worker permit will probably appear like an attractive option to. So yes, that will impact that group of individuals and that will be really important to our clients and to them continuing to operate in the same way they do now with cross border workers.”

    The UK government has said it will be launching a frontier worker permit scheme later this year. You’ll be able to apply if you have frontier worker status. There will be no deadline for making an application.

    Applications will be free and you'll be to apply online from inside or outside the UK.