Immigration changes affecting EU students

Immigration changes affecting EU students

Last updated: 23 February 2021

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

The UK is no longer part of the European Union. EU, EEA and Swiss nationals can still come to the UK for tourism or study for up to six months without needing a visa.

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

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

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

EU, EEA and Swiss students do not need a visitor visa: they can arrive at the border and 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

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 continue to travel on ID cards until 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 do not have the right to work in the UK

International students in the UK 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 arrived 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 will end in 2021

Erasmus+ funding is guaranteed until the end of the academic year in 2021. The UK Government has decided not to continue its involvement in the Erasmus programme. 

List of Travellers scheme for non-EEA national school pupils can be used until 1 October 2021

School groups will not be able to use the List of Travellers scheme to visit the UK from 1 October 2021.

Until September 2021, 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 List of Travellers form.

Health insurance and costs

Students who have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) can continue using it when they visit the UK. They should also have travel or health insurance to cover the duration of their trip.

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

All students who want to study in the UK for more than six months must apply for a visa, and 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. 

Full-time students in UK higher education who have an EHIC issued by an EU country may be entitled to a full or partial refund, providing they do not work in the UK while studying.

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.