Brexit & English language students from the EU

Last updated 11 April 2019

How could Brexit affect students travelling to the UK for ELT courses? 

This explains what students can expect after the UK leaves the EU. As that date is currently unclear, we will refer to it as Brexit Day on this page for now.

The good news is that there will be very few changes before the end of December 2020 and students can mostly come as they do now. From 2021 it will still be easy for students to enter the UK.

We look forward to welcoming students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland to learn English in the UK after Brexit.

From Brexit Day to the end of 2020

The UK government is working to ensure that there are no or very few changes to the way that EU/EEA and Swiss nationals enter the UK after Brexit Day until the end of 2020.

If the UK leaves the EU with an agreement, students will not notice any difference to the way they currently enter the UK. This will remain the case until 31 December 2020. During that time students will be able to work and study as now.

If the UK leaves the EU without an agreement, EU/EEA and Swiss nationals will still enter the UK as they do now. The biggest difference is that if they plan to stay for more than three months, they will need to apply for permission to remain (European Leave to Remain). This would allow them to stay for up to three years. 

There will be a new immigration system from January 2021 for all visitors.

ID cards

The UK government will accept ID cards for entry to the UK until December 2020. 

If there is no agreement, ID cards will be accepted for entry until 31 December 2020. From January 2021, it is expected that all visitors to the UK will require a passport to enter the UK.

If there is an agreement, there will be an "implementation period" while laws are changed so ID cards will be accepted until the end of 2020

There is plenty of time to plan for when passports are needed from 2021.

Travel to the UK from 2021

It will still be easy for EU/EEA/Swiss students to enter the UK from 2021.They will have to apply in advance for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA), which the UK Government says will be cheap and easy. When they arrive, they will be given a short-term study visa. They can also apply for other visas that might fit their needs better.

Travel advice for students who arrived in the UK before Brexit Day

If there is No Deal Immigration lawyers suggest that students already in the UK get their language centre to provide a letter confirming their enrolment and start date if they plan to travel abroad. 

This is because arriving before Brexit gives them more rights. Anyone arriving in the UK after 12 April 2019 will get a three month entry stamp on their travel document, and will have to apply for European Leave to Remain. 

Existing students will not need to do this as long as they can show Border Force staff proof that they are not new entrants to the UK.

Erasmus + programmes

If there is an agreement between the UK and the EU these are likely to continue as now until the end of 2020.

If there is no agreement, the UK government is keen to guarantee that the UK will continue to participate in Erasmus + programmes until the end of 2020.