Frontier worker permit – an alternative to EU pre-settled status

Jan 7, 2021

Free movement ended on 1 January 2021.

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who crossed the border prior to 11pm on 31 December 2020 with the intention to make the UK their main home were able to secure a long term status under the EU Settlement Scheme. Existing residents have until 30 June 2021 to apply for settled or pre-settled status.

For those who wish to continue to work in the UK but live primarily in another country, the government has launched the frontier worker permit scheme.

To enter the UK as a frontier worker after 1 July 2021 you will need to hold a valid frontier worker permit, as well as your valid passport or national identity card.

frontier worker permit

complied by Judit Adorjan

Who will be eligible for a frontier worker permit?

The Citizen’s Rights (Frontier Workers) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 provide some insight into how frontier workers can secure their status.

Regulation 3 defines a frontier worker as someone who met the following criteria before 31 December 2020 and has continued to meet them since:

  • A person from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein
  • Not primarily resident in the UK
  • And is one of the following:
    • An employed or self-employed person who has started working in the UK by 31 December 2020, and
    • kept working in the UK at least once every 12 months since they started working here, or
    • a person who has retained their status of being self-employed or a worker under regulation 4.

Irish citizens do not need to apply for a Frontier Worker permit but can choose to do so.


What does “not primarily resident” mean?

According to paragraph 3 of regulation 3 to be considered not primarily resident one must show that:

  • They have been present in the UK for less than 180 days in total in the UK over the course of any 12-month period
  • They have returned to their country of residence at least:
    • Once in the last 6 months, or
    • Twice in the last 12 months before the relevant day, unless there are exceptional reasons for not having done so (illness or accident).

Due to the broad definition of residence the permit may become a safety net for people with pre-settled status who fail to qualify for settled status before their pre-settled status expires.

The regulations do not specify how often one must come to the UK to qualify for a frontier worker permit. It only refers to Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union which states that work must be “genuine and effective”. Therefore, the permit may be a solution for EU workers who need to travel to the UK for business visits and whose activities go beyond the current range of permitted activities for visitors.


How do you retain your frontier worker status?

 Regulation 4 allows a worker to retain their permit if they have had to stop working due to illness, an accident, unemployment, vocational training, pregnancy or childbirth.

Persons falling into these categories can retain their permit for 2 years or 6 months if they have stopped working due to unemployment after working in the UK for less than a year.

frontier worker permit

Karen Kaur and Jonathan Beech – Immigration Lawyers


What is the application process?

 Those with a frontier worker status will be able to apply online using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app or the online forms for applications from inside or outside the UK.

The application for the permit is free of charge, and you do not have to pay the immigration health surcharge. However, you may have to pay for an appointment to submit your biometric information (photograph and fingerprints) if your smartphone is not compatible with the app.

Applicants will need to submit evidence of their identity and their frontier worker status or ‘retained’ status.

Evidence of frontier worker status can include:

  • An employment contract, or contracts to work in the UK
  • Pay slips, or copies of invoices for work carried out in the UK

Proof of ‘retained status’ can be for example a letter from a doctor about your illness due to which you are temporarily unable to work or copies of recent job applications if you are unemployed and seeking work.

There is no minimum skill requirement or an immigration quota for applications.

Those who have applied using the ‘UK Immigration: ID check’ app will be issued a digital version of the permit rather than a physical ID card.

Frontier workers will need a permit to enter the UK after 30 June 2021. Until then, they can use their passport or national ID card to enter the UK.

If approved the permit is valid for 5 years for workers, but only for 2 years for the self-employed and workers who have retained their frontier worker status under regulation 4.

The permit only constitutes a right of admission to the UK, it does not confer leave to enter or remain under the 1971 Immigration Act. This means it cannot lead to settlement in the UK.

 Family members are not covered by the Frontier Worker Permit.


What does the permit allow you to do?

 You can use your permit to enter the UK as a frontier worker and show your right to:

  • Work
  • Rent
  • Access benefits and services, including NHS healthcare, if you meet the relevant eligibility requirements.


Can applications be refused?

An application can be refused due to:

  • Loss of frontier worker status
  • Reasons of public policy, public security and public health, and
  • Misuse of frontier worker rights.


Migrate UK can assess the visa best suited to your situation.  Contact us on 01235 841 568 or

frontier worker permit

Migrate UK immigration lawyers