Many UK charities and social businesses have staff who work for the organisation in the UK but who are primarily resident in another EU country.

Once the Brexit transition period comes to an end on 31 December 2020, EU free movement laws that have facilitated these sorts of cross-border working arrangements will come to an end and a new UK points-based immigration system will come into effect.

For charities that wish to continue to engage EU staff to work in the UK some or all of the time after 31 December, the new frontier worker permit could be the answer.

What is a frontier worker?

For these purposes, a frontier worker is:

  • an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen;
  • who is employed or self-employed in the UK but who lives elsewhere; and
  • who began working in the UK before 31 December 2020.

For example, a Belgian employee from your office in Brussels who works in the UK one week per month but who is well established in Belgium, whose role is based in Brussels, and whose family and friends are also in Belgium.

Note that Irish citizens won't need to do anything in order to continue to work in the UK from 1 January 2021 and won't, therefore, need to apply for a frontier worker permit.

What is a frontier worker permit?

A frontier worker permit will allow the holder to enter the UK in order to work. It will be valid for five years for workers and two years for people who are self-employed and can be renewed.

Applications and key dates

The new scheme is due to launch on 10 December 2020 and frontier workers will be able to apply online from inside or outside the UK.

Applications will be free, employers won't need to have a sponsorship licence, and there won't be any qualifying criteria relating to skills or salary.

There is no deadline for making an application but frontier workers will need a valid permit in order to enter the UK for work from 1 July 2021 onwards.

As noted above, only individuals who were engaged to work in the UK before 31 December 2020 will qualify for the new frontier worker permit. If you think that a frontier worker permit could be a good solution for your charity staff, you should review your employment arrangements now.