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No longer In Limbo: ‘Frontier Worker’ Permit

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Written by Isabelle Cooper

Published 19/03/2021


Free movement, cheap travel and remote working across the EU fostered the growth of ‘frontier workers’; those who work in one country but reside in another. However, Brexit plunged the future of this working pattern into question.

Would EU citizens who worked in the UK but lived elsewhere, be able to continue working in the UK?

Will there be a mass exodus of EU workers from the UK?

The new ‘Fronter Worker’ permit settles all these concerns. EU citizens who worked in the UK before Brexit (31/12/2020) but reside elsewhere, will be able to continue doing this. We can breathe again.

What is it?

A new permit scheme for ‘Frontier Workers’ opened 10th December 2020. As required by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement , the UK government must protect the immigration rights of EU citizens who commuted to the UK for work before Brexit and need to continue to do so. This also works vice versa: UK ‘frontier workers’ in the EU can apply for a similar document[i].

Permit holders will be able to work, rent and access the welfare state (benefits and NHS) without paying the Immigration Health Surcharge.

The permit is valid for five years for employed workers and 2 years (or less) for self-employed workers.

It is important to note that the permit does not lead to ‘indefinite leave to remain’ (ILR) as it only constitutes ‘right to admission free from immigration control’. It can be extended indefinitely, however. Therefore, some workers may prefer to opt for the ‘Skilled Worker’ or ‘Global Talent‘ Visa which provides a pathway to ILR and British citizenship[ii].

Who is it for?

You can apply if you are:

  • An EEA or Swiss National
  • Not primarily resident in the UK; either
    • You have returned to your country of residence at least once in the last six months or twice in the last 12 months; or
    • You have been in the UK for less than 180 days in the 12-month period before your application date.
    • See here for more information.


  • A worker in the UK; or
  • Self-employed in the UK

Note: you must have begun working in the UK before 31st December 2020 and have continuing working in this working pattern up to the point of your application. For those hoping to start work after Brexit, you will most likely need to apply for a visa through the new ‘Points-Based System’ https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa.

For instance: Hannah is a Swedish citizen who started working in Manchester in February 2020. She will make an application for the ‘Frontier Worker’ Permit in January 2021. Between February 2020 and January 2021, she travelled to Sweden twice between these two dates and therefore qualifies as ‘not primarily resident’ in the UK.

Family members can join you under the EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit, however, not directly under the ‘Frontier Worker’ Permit.

How do I apply?

You can apply free of charge and online from either within or outside the UK. You will need your passport/national identity and proof of employment.

To prove your identity, you will need to either;

  • Book an in-person appointment at a visa application centre; or
    • Provided with a paper copy of your permit.
  • Use the smartphone app
    • Provided with a digital copy of your permit.

If your application is refused, you have the right to appeal.

What about Covid-19?

Due to travel restrictions imposed as a Covid-19 response, many ‘Frontier workers’ have been unable to travel to or out of the UK. The Home Office has allowed this, as well as being ill or having to self-isolate, to constitute ‘exceptional circumstances’ for failing to meet the residency requirements. Phew!


We can hear a huge sigh of relief from many EU workers and UK employers. The flexibility of the ‘Frontier Worker’ permit will allow much business-as-usual to continue post-Brexit.

Get in touch if you need help applying for yours.

[i] European Labour Authority (2021) Brexit: what consequences for moving and working in the EU or the UK? European Labour Authority, viewed 18/03/2021, available at https://www.ela.europa.eu/news/brexit-what-consequences-moving-and-working-eu-or-uk

[ii] Hunt, J (2021) How to apply for a frontier worker permit, FreeMovement.org, viewed 18/03/2021, available at https://www.freemovement.org.uk/frontier-worker-permit/

March 19,2021 at 9:59 am


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