Contractors’ Questions: How can Frontier Work Permits be made mandatory from July 1st?

Contractor’s Question: I’ve heard that for those from abroad interested in self-employed work in UK that Frontier Work Permits “become mandatory” from July 1st – it says it here too. But surely employers (in the UK who want us overseas techies) can’t be forced to apply?

Expert’s Answer: Thank you for your question but no, this is not a visa that employers apply for, this is a visa that individuals – such as yourself if seems -- have to apply for of their own accord. 

When the Frontier Work Permits become mandatory, it means anyone seeking to enter the UK to do productive work on a self-employed or employed basis, and who lives elsewhere (but whose working pattern was established before December 31st 2020), must be in possession of a valid FWP, or they will be refused entry.

Meet our Swiss banker...

Let’s take a high-end example. So imagine a Swiss banker, who travels to the UK as part of their international role but lives primarily in Switzerland. Assuming he or she does not have settled/pre-settled status, every time they enter the UK, they will need to make sure the correct visa is in their possession.

Our banker can enter as a visitor to the UK without making a visa application in advance, but is not able to work in the UK in this category. If they enter as a visitor but carry out work regardless, the banker will be working illegally, resulting in significant compliance penalties, including fines, ‘naming and shaming’ and potentially even criminal liability for the business which the banker is working for or on behalf of.

Significant consequences

There are also significant consequences for our banker personally, of entering in breach of the immigration requirements. For example, if he or she is found to have entered using deception, the banker could be banned from coming back to the UK for up to 10 years.

The key difference is that up until July1st 2021, our banker has been able to enter the UK as a ‘Frontier Worker’ albeit without having any specific permit from the UK government setting out what they are doing in the UK. But from July 1st, the banker will not be able to come into the UK as an FWP without holding the permit first. If the banker tries to do so, they will be refused entry. This means that if our banker or a worker in a similar situation wants to enter the UK to work using the Frontier Worker Permit option, it will become necessary to successfully apply for the Frontier Work Permit first after July 1st 2021. Best of luck applying for your own Frontier Work Permit!

The expert was Laura Darnley, legal director at law firm Brabners LLP.

Wednesday 30th Jun 2021
Profile picture for user Laura Darnley

Written by Laura Darnley

Laura is Head of the Business Immigration Team at Brabners. She is a very experienced employment and business immigration lawyer who has practised for over 15 years. She advises businesses and individuals on all aspects of immigration law including compliance, work permits and employer sponsorship, the prevention of illegal working and business travellers (including the visitor rules and frontier worker permits). Currently she is helping businesses adapt to the post-Brexit changes.

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