Can Frontier Workers ease the candidate shortage?

With labour shortages continuing to affect many industries, and Christmas on the horizon, recruiters should consider whether Frontier Workers could help them to fill vacancies. Who is a Frontier Worker? Broadly speaking, a Frontier Worker is an EEA or Swiss national who comes to the UK for work but whose main place of residence is outside of the UK. As an example, a French national who usually lives in Paris but has come to the UK over the last few years to work in retail at Christmas, after which he returns to his home in Paris, may be eligible for a Frontier Worker Permit. Frontier Worker Permits became mandatory for anyone seeking to enter in this category from 1 July 2021.

What is a Frontier Worker Permit and how do you get one?
In order to be eligible for a Frontier Worker Permit, an individual must be:

  • An EEA or Swiss national
  • Not primarily resident in the UK. This will usually mean they must have been present in the UK for less than 180 days in any rolling 12-month period from 1 January 2020 to the date on which their application is made. Alternatively, the individual must have returned to their country of residence either once in every six-month period or twice in every 12-month period. Note that even if this requirement is not met, a Frontier Worker Permit may still be granted if the individual has been prevented from returning home due to permitted “exceptional reasons”.
  • Able to show they worked in the UK before 31 December 2020. In other words, they must have set up their frontier working pattern by no later than the end of last year. They can be employed or self-employed, but in both cases the work carried out must be “genuine and effective” and not marginal and ancillary to their lifestyle as a whole whilst in the UK. There are specific tests that must be met and detailed guidance as to what sort of evidence will satisfy the Home Office on these points.
  • Able to show they have continued working in the UK at least once every 12 months since they started working here. This will be particularly important for renewals and maintaining Frontier Worker status. Specific exemptions to this rule may apply, depending on the circumstances.
  • They must meet the general suitability criteria.  This means applications can be refused, for example, if the individual is a threat to public security or subject to a deportation order.

January 3, 2022
Rebecca Griffiths
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