Immigration changes affecting EU students


Last updated: 9 October 2020

French passport with map

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

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

From 2021, EU/EEA/Swiss nationals will be able to come to the UK as a tourist or student for up to six months without needing a visa.

They will need to apply for a visa before travelling to the UK if they want to work or study for longer than 6 months, if they do not already hold either settled or pre-settled status in the UK.

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

Until 31 December 2020, EU/EEA/Swiss students can study in the UK as usual. They do not need any kind of visa during the transition period, and they can still travel on ID cards.  It is recommended that any EEA nationals arriving before 31 December apply under the EU Settlement Scheme.

EU/EEA/Swiss students who study for less than six months do not need 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/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.

Note: From 2021. international students are only allowed to study at institution which are accredited by one the UK government-recognised accreditation bodies. You can choose any English UK member centre - these are accredited by the British Council's quality assurance scheme: Accreditation UK.

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 (11 months) - 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 +

Student visa - 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 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 visa?

Students can apply for a visa up to three months before the date of travel for a Standard Visitor visa or Short-term study visa. They can apply up to six months in advance for a Student visa. They should get a decision on your visa 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 will not be allowed to work, undertake work placements or internships unless they have a Student visa and and their course meets additional requirements. 

Eligible students on an English language course will only be allowed to work a maximum of 10 hours per week (and full time during the holidays), as the course is below degree level.

Students who are resident in the UK at any time before 31 December 2020 should 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 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.