During early vertebrate development, the embryonic ectoderm becomes subdivided into neural, neural plate border (border) and epidermal regions. The nervous system is derived from the neural and border domains which, respectively, give rise to the central and peripheral nervous systems. To better understand the functional nervous system we need to know how individual neurons are specified and connected. Our understanding of the early development of the peripheral nervous system has been lagging compared to knowledge regarding central nervous system and epidermal cell lineage decision. Recent advances have shown when and how the specification of border cells is initiated. One important insight is that border specification is already initiated at blastula stages, and can be molecularly and temporally distinguished from rostrocaudal regionalisation of the border. From findings in several species, it is clear that Wnt, Bone Morphogenetic Protein and Fibroblast Growth Factor signals play important roles during the specification and regionalisation of the border. In this review, we highlight the individual roles of these signals and compare models of border specification, including a new model that describes how temporal coordination and epistatic interactions of extracellular signals result in the specification and regionalisation of border cells.