Planning for Brexit - what UK ELT centres need to know

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Last updated: 23 September 2020

Planning for Brexit - what UK ELT centres need to know

The UK has left the European Union, and the transistion period after Brexit comes to an end this year. From January 2021, a new immigration system with new rules will apply to all nationalities.

English UK continues to campaign for a supportive immigration system which will be welcoming to international students and those working in the English language teaching sector from 2021 onwards.

Below is a summary of the planned changes that UK ELT centres need to plan for:

Changes that will affect student recruitment from January 2021

The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill will end the EU's rules on free movement on 1 January 2021 for all EU, EEA and Swiss citizens (with the exception of Ireland). 

Key changes:

  • EU, EEA and Swiss citizens will lose automatic work rights
  • EU, EEA and Swiss citizens will be classed as non-visa nationals for immigration purposes. This means they will not need to apply for a visa to visit the UK if they come for less than six months (for tourism or study)
  • All international students who want to study for more than six months will need to apply for a visa (short-term 11 months, or Student visa) before travel (see details of visa requirements for EU/EEA/Swiss students)
  • The Tier 4 visa route is being replaced by a new-look Student visa route. The key change is that switching providers in-country will be allowed, which means centres who want to sponsor students in advance of higher education course may wish to apply for a sponsor licence (learn more about the Student visa route)
  • Any EU, EEA or Swiss citizen living in the UK on or before 31 December 2020 can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living and working in the UK - the deadline for applying is 30 June 2021
  • ID card travel will be phased out at some point in 2021 meaning all visitors will require passports (English UK is currently working hard for a concession which would allow ID card travel to remain for juniors but this is very uncertain)
  • The new immigration system does not have a temporary work route for EEA/Swiss citizens but it is possible that the youth mobility scheme may be extended beyond the current eight countries as part of trade negotiations. 

Changes affecting staffing and recruitment

  • The salary threshold for EU mirgrant workers will drop to £25,600 and 30 per cent lower for new entrants (pro-rata salaries will not be accepted and there are no regional variations)
  • Required skills levels for migrant workers drop from RQF6 (graduate) to RQF3 (roughly A-level or equivalent)
  • The Migration Advisory Committee will continue to keep a Shortage Occupations List (SOL)
  • English UK will continue to monitor the situation around ELT centre staff and make representations as necessary
  • There is no need to apply for permission to remain in the UK within three months of arriving
  • The European Leave to Remain is now called the European Temporary Leave to Remain (Euro TLR)
  • EEA nationals who arrive after Brexit will have make an application if they intend to stay in the UK after 31 December 2020 - the Euro TLR is valid for up to 36 months
  • See the CIPD information on Brexit, immigration and employment law

What do ELT centres need to do in preparation for these immigration changes?

  • Centres who want to hire international staff will need to become Tier 2 sponsors: the Home Office has suggested starting that process quickly
  • Centres who want to sponsor students on the new Student visa route need to become Student sponsors
  • Keep your EU-based agents and partners informed about changes to immigration rules for the UK (share the English UK information for agents)
  • Check your contracts: correct any references to EU law, look at agreements with EU suppliers to insert standard contractual clauses (SCC), check termination clauses and prepare to include clauses to ensure data transfer from the EU is GDPR-compliant
  • Risk-assess your business: where do your students come from? Do you need to diversify? Use English UK data to help your planning.

Future of Erasmus+

Erasmus+ funding is guaranteed until the end of the 2020-21 academic year and English UK has written to the Department for Education to ask them to remind national funding agencies in the EU of this. The UK government has said it is interested in joining the next Erasmus period, running from 2021 to 2027.


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