Frontier Workers in the United Kingdom: Rights and Status

Morgan Lewis

Morgan LewisThe UK government has published guidance on the rights of frontier workers under the new immigration system which will take effect on 1 January 2021, when free movement within the European Economic Area and Swiss Economic Area will end.

Frontier workers are European Union, European Economic Area, or Swiss nationals who are employed or self-employed in the United Kingdom but remain resident outside of the United Kingdom. On 1 January 2021, the United Kingdom’s new immigration system will come into effect, which will require frontier workers to apply for a permit if they intend to keep their frontier worker status. Irish nationals do not need to do anything to continue working in the United Kingdom from 1 January 2021.


Frontier workers working in the United Kingdom on or before 31 December 2020 will be able to keep frontier worker status, but will need to apply for a frontier worker permit by 30 June 2021. Frontier workers may also keep this status if they have previously been a frontier worker and one of the following applies:

  • The frontier worker is temporarily unable to work because of an illness or accident.
  • The frontier worker was working in the United Kingdom but is now involuntarily unemployed and is looking for work in the United Kingdom.
  • The frontier worker is in vocational training while involuntarily unemployed.
  • The frontier worker is in vocational training while unemployed, and the training is related to the work carried out in previous work.
  • The frontier worker is temporarily unable to work as a result of pregnancy or childbirth.
  • The frontier worker is on maternity or paternity leave and will return to previous employment, or find another job, at the end of this period.


Later this year, the UK government will launch a scheme to allow frontier workers to apply for the required permit. Applications will be free and can be submitted online from inside or outside the United Kingdom.

From 1 July 2021, a frontier worker will require a valid frontier worker permit, as well as a valid passport or national identity card to enter the United Kingdom. Until 1 July 2021, a frontier worker can continue to enter the United Kingdom using their valid passport or national identity card.


After 1 January 2021, non-British, non-Irish workers who wish to begin employment in the United Kingdom while remaining resident outside the United Kingdom will need to apply through its points-based immigration system.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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