Planning for Brexit - what UK ELT centres need to know

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Last updated: 9 October 2020

Planning for Brexit - what UK ELT centres need to know

The UK has left the European Union, and the transition period after Brexit ends in December 2020. 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 changes that UK ELT centres need to plan for:

Changes that will affect student recruitment from January 2021

From January 2021, EEA and Swiss citizens will be treated as 'non visa nationals' for UK immigration purposes. 

This means they will not need a visa if they come to UK for tourism or study for less than six months. They will require a visa if they plan to study for more than six months.

Clear communication with students and agents will be key. You can share our information for agents with your partners.

Key points to note:

  • EEA and Swiss citizens will lose automatic work rights
  • EEA and Swiss citizens will be classed as non-visa nationals for immigration purposes. 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 Student visa route. Centres who want to sponsor students on the new Student visa route need to be Student sponsors. The key change is that switching providers in-country will be allowed, which means centres who want to sponsor students planning to move on to higher education course may wish to apply for a sponsor licence (learn more about the Student visa route)
  • Any 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
  • From 1 October 2021, all visitors will require a passport to enter the UK. Visitors with settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme can continue to use their EEA or Swiss national ID card to enter the UK until at least 31 December 2025. See government guidance on visiting the Uk from January 2021.
  • 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 staff recruitment

The new points-based immigration system will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally.

Anyone coming to the UK to work, excluding Irish citizens, will need to apply for permission in advance.

EU/EEA/Swiss staff who start before the end of 2020

Any staff already in the UK before the end of 2020 who are EU, EEA or Swiss citizens will be able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living and working in the UK - the deadline for applying is 30 June 2021.

Employers can continue to accept the passports and national identity cards of EU citizens as evidence of their right to work up until 30 June 2021.

Recruiting staff from 1 January 2021

From 1 January 2021, if you want to continue recruiting staff from outside the UK's resident labour market, you will need to be a Home Office licensed sponsor.

To apply for a visa which allows them to work in the UK, workers will need to demonstrate that:

  • they have a job offer from a Home Office licensed sponsor
  • the job offer is at the required skill level – RQF 3 or above (A Level and equivalent)
  • they speak English to the required standard
  • the job offer must meet the applicable minimum salary threshold of £25,600. "New entrants" at the start of their careers are allowed to earn 30 per cent lower. Read more at Gov.uk.

For more information about these requirements and becoming a licensed sponsor see:

English UK will continue to monitor the situation around ELT centre staff and lobby for amendments to support our sector.


What else do ELT centres need to do in preparation for the end of the transition period?

  • Assess contracts: you may need to change the terms of existing contracts and add specific clauses to new contracts to mitigate risks associated with Brexit eg. correct any references to EU law, assess termination clauses, look at agreements with EU suppliers to insert standard contractual clauses (SCC).
  • Be prepared for possible currency fluctuations: check the viability of your commercial contracts. If you are using package travel regulations you can add surcharge provisions. See government guidance on The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018.
  • Customer protection for package sales: UK businesses which sell packages through the EU can rely on ATOL and similar legislation to protect customers if there is a problem. This will no longer be the case. The Civil Aviation Authority website says: "ATOL will continue to protect bookings that have already been made, but any further sales made into EEA countries will need to meet local requirements for insolvency protection.  Affected businesses will need to make their own arrangements in this regard". 
  • Data protection: visit the ICO website to find out if you need to do anything to remain compliant
  • Risk-assess your business: where do your students come from? Do you need to diversify? Use English UK data to help your planning
  • Make sure you are signed up to the English UK mailing list for industry-specific updates

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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