Immigration changes affecting EU students


Last updated: 13 August 2020

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

On 31 January 2020 the UK left the European Union. We are now in a transition period until 31 December 2020. During this period, the future relationship between the UK and European Union will be decided.

The UK government is planning a new immigration system which will start in January 2021. Some of these plans may change, and further details will be announced during 2020. 

Below is a summary of the expected changes that have been announced so far, which will affect students coming to the UK from the EU, EEA and Switzerland.


EU/EEA students can come to study English in the UK as usual until end of December 2020

Until 31 December 2020, agents can continue to send EU/EEA/Swiss students to study in the UK as usual. These students do not need any kind of visa during the transition period, and they can still travel on ID cards. 

There will be a new immigration system from January 2021

The UK government is planning a new immigration system which will apply to all nationalities.

EU/EEA will be treated as 'non-visa' nationals. This means that they will be able to enter the UK as a visitor, or as a students, for stays of up to six months without needing a visa. They will receive an entry stamp in their passport on arrival.

EU/EEA/Swiss students who want to study for less than six months will NOT need to apply for a visa

From January 2021, anyone who is in the UK as a visitor will be able to study as much as they want for up to 6 months. EU/EEA students will not need to a visitor visa: they can arrive at the border and either show their passport, or enter through the electronic passport gates.

These students do need to choose an institution which is accredited by one the government-recognised accreditation bodies. All English UK members and British Council-accredited English language centres, on the Accreditation UK list, are recognised.

EU/EEA/Swiss students who want to study English for more than six months will need to apply for a visa before coming to the UK

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

11 month visas - for English courses between 6-11 months

Students who are older than 16 can study English in the UK for between 6-11 months on an 11 Month Short Term Student visa. read more about 11 Month Short Term Student Visas +

Tier 4 visas - for courses longer than 11 months

Students who wish to study in the UK for more than 11 months will need to apply for a Tier 4 visa. This visa is only for students who already have an intermediate level of English, and want to study at an institution which is a Tier 4 sponsor. read more about Tier 4 visas on the UKCISA website +

How long does it take to apply for a student visa?

You can apply for a visa up to three months before your date of travel to the UK. You should get a decision on your visa within three weeks when you apply from outside the UK.

Longer study visas for students under 16 years old

There is a Tier 4 (Child) student visa for students aged 18 or under who want to study at an independent school (high school) in the UK. read more about the Tier 4 (Child) student visa +

Student can travel on ID cards in 2020, but this will change at some point next year

Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland can enter the UK with their passport or ID card during 2020.

In the future, all visitors and students will require a passport to enter the UK. We are waiting for the government to confirm the date for this change.


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. 

Under current rules, students with a Tier 4 visa can sometimes work part-time in the UK. If they study English at an eligible institution on a full-time course, they can work for 10 hours per week.

Students who are resident in the UK at any time before 31 December 2020 can apply for settled status, which would 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.

European Health Insurance Cards 

Students arriving in the UK from January 31 2021 will need to buy travel insurance which covers medical costs.

There is an exception for students from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, who are entitled to free health care under the citizens' rights agreements.

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.

Confused? Contact English UK for advice

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