Immigration changes affecting EU students


Immigration changes affecting EU students

Last updated: 25 November 2020

What does the UK's new immigration system mean for EU, EEA and Swiss students?

The UK has left the European Union. The transition period comes to an end this year. 

From 2021, EU, EEA and Swiss nationals will still be able to come to the UK for tourism or study for up to six months without needing a visa.

They will need to apply for a visa before travelling if they want to study for longer than six months.


Studying in the UK in 2020 

Until 31 December 2020, EU, EEA and Swiss students can study in the UK as usual without a visa. 

ID cards are still valid for entry until 1 October 2021. After this date all visitors will require a passport.

EU, EEA and Swiss nationals who are studying in the UK before 31 December 2020 can apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, which will give them the right to continue studying and working in the UK after January 2021.

Studying in the UK for less than six months - no visa required

From January 2021, all visitors will be able to study in the UK as much as they want for up to six months.

EU, EEA and Swiss students will not need a visitor visa: they can arrive at the border and either show their passport, or enter through the electronic passport gates to be granted entry clearance.

International students must choose an accredited course provider. From 2021, international students are only allowed to study English at institutions that are accredited by a government-recognised body. 

Bookings with English UK member centres can be made with confidence. These are accredited by the British Council's government-recognised quality assurance scheme, Accreditation UK.


Students Study English in the UK for 6 months or more

From 2021, all international students require a visa to study for more than six months

Students over 16 years old must apply online for a visa to study English in the UK for more than six months.

Short-term study visa - for English courses between 6-11 months

Students who are older than 16 can study English in the UK for between six - 11 months on a Short Term Study visa.

Student visa - for courses longer than 11 months

Students who want to study in the UK for more than 11 months will need to apply for a Student visa. 

This visa is only for students who already have an intermediate level of English (B1). It will be possible to switch providers in-country so students can study English at a language school then move to a university course. 

How long does it take to apply for a UK study visa?

Students can apply for a Short-term Study visa up to three months before the date of travel. They can apply up to six months in advance for a Student visa. They should get a decision within three weeks.


Students can travel on ID cards in 2020, but will require passports from 1 October 2021

From 1 October 2021, all visitors will require a passport to enter the UK. 

Visitors can continue to use a EEA or Swiss national ID card to enter the UK until at least 31 December 2025 if they have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.


Most English language students will not have the right to work in the UK

Most students who come to study English in the UK will not be able to work from 2021.

International students are only allowed to work if they are studying a full time course at a higher education institution. They must be studying on a Student visa, and the institution must be listed on the UK Government's register of Student sponsors with the status: Student Sponsor - Track Record. The legal number of working hours depends on the level of the course:

  • Students who study an English language course (below degree level) on a Student visa will be allowed to work a maximum of 10 hours per week (and full time during the holidays)
  • Students studying at degree level or higher can work a maximum of 20 hours per week. 

EU, EEA and Swiss nationals who are studying in the UK before 31 December 2020 can apply for settled status, which will give them the right to work after January 2021.

English UK is campaigning for English language students in the UK to be given work rights in the future.


Erasmus+ funding for UK programmes is secure for 2020

Erasmus+ funding is guaranteed until the end of the academic year in 2021. Future funding will be subject of negotiations during the transition period.


List of Travellers scheme for non-EEA national school pupils continues for 2020

The List of Travellers scheme will continue during 2020. The UK government says that the scheme will not end immediately on 1 January 2021 but it may be phased out.

For 2020, non-EEA students who are travelling as part of a group of EEA students will continue to be able to travel without a visa if they are listed on the form.


Health insurance and costs

Students arriving in the UK from January 2021 will need to buy travel insurance which covers medical costs as they may not be able to access free healthcare in the UK after this date. 

Any student with settled or pre-settled status in the UK will also be able to use the UK's National Health Service free of charge.

Any students who come to the UK for more than six months must apply for a visa, and must pay the immigration health surcharge as part of the online application. They can then access national health services in the UK including free doctors appointments and hospital services. If the visa is valid for between six and 12 months, the cost is £470. The cost increases with the length of the visa.


More information

Visit our UK student visas page for details of visa options and application requirements.

If you are unclear about this information, please contact the English UK team.