Ahead of the launch of the UK’s new points-based immigration system on 1 January 2021 (in reality launched on 1 December 2020), the Home Office announced the opening of the new Frontier Worker Permit scheme. The new immigration route opened on 10 December and is reserved for EU, EEA and Swiss nationals as an alternative to the EU Settlement Scheme.
From July 2021, all frontier workers must hold a work permit for UK entry. Eligibility for the scheme includes:
Being an EU, EEA or Swiss national
Not being primarily resident in the UK (living mainly in another country)
Working or self-employed in the UK or have retained status
The new immigration category is not aimed at people seeking to start work in the UK after 31 December 2020, it is intended for those who have established a regular work pattern as a frontier worker prior to the end of the Brexit transitional period and the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. If it is feasible probably better in most cases to apply for pre-settled or settled status.
The new scheme has been launched in order for the UK to fulfil certain obligations following its split from the bloc.
The Frontier Worker Permit scheme is seemingly targeting international commuters, especially those from Dublin, Paris or Zurich who regularly travel to the UK for business. Ultimately, the scheme is reserved for a very small number of people.
Compared to UK visit visa rules, the Frontier Worker Permit route offers more flexibility on sources of payment and activities allowed while in the UK.
If granted, a Frontier Worker Permit is issued for five years to current workers and two years for people with retained status. However, the scheme offers no route to indefinite leave to remain, but the renewal process is said to be straightforward.
UK employers are being urged to consider whether any workers they have who regularly travel to Britain as part of their job, but don’t live in the UK permanently, should apply for frontier worker status.
Frontier Worker Permit scheme welcomed
Leaders in a number of UK industry sectors have welcomed the launch of the Frontier Worker Permit, particularly those in construction and professional and banking services. The new scheme is set to give them greater mobility over employees, allowing them to continue to come and work in the UK on an ad hoc basis.
There’s no fee for the work permit and it’s not subject to the UK Immigration Health Surcharge, which doubled in October.
The launch of the Frontier Worker program accompanies the recent opening of the Tier 2 Skilled Worker visa route, which started accepting applications on 1 December 2020.
Announcing the Tier 2 Skilled Worker visa route, a Home Office press release said: “The new immigration rules will ensure that businesses can recruit the most highly qualified from across the globe to drive the economy forwards and keep the UK at the frontier of innovation.”
“It will also encourage employers to focus on training and investing in the UK workforce, driving productivity and improving opportunities for individuals, especially those impacted by coronavirus,” the press release added.
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