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How will Brexit affect international students?

On the 31 January 2020, the UK formally leaves the EU and starts an 11 month transition period. During this time the UK will continue to follow all of the EU's rules, while they work out how their future relationship will look.

What does this all mean for studying in the UK after Brexit, the thousands of European students currently studying in the UK, and how will it impact British students studying in the EU?

The future is not yet fully clear, and it may be a few months until we know exactly what Brexit will mean for international students, but here is everything we know so far.

Will EU students need a visa to study in the UK?

If you’re an EEA national (EU, non-EU EEA and Swiss citizens) currently studying in the UK, the first thing to confirm is that there will be no immediate change to your immigration status after 31 January 2020. This means you won’t need to apply for a study visa if you arrive in the UK before the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.

However, you should apply for either settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme if you plan to stay in the UK beyond 1 January 2021. Settled status means you can live in the UK indefinitely, and you can apply for this if you have lived continuously in the UK for five years.

If you’ve been in the UK for less than five years, you can apply for pre-settled status. This gives you limited leave to remain in the UK and means you can stay until you’ve reached the five year threshold, when you can then apply for settled status.

If you’re an EU student planning to start studying in the UK after 1 January 2021, it is currently unclear whether or not you will need to apply for a visa. Assuming the rules will be the same as for non-EU international students, you will need to apply for a UK student visa.

Will tuition fees for EU students change?

In the UK, publicly funded universities normally charge two levels of fees: a home fee and an overseas fee. The home fee is charged at a lower rate, and is currently applicable to students from the UK and EU.

The governments for all the UK countries (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) have confirmed that EU students starting university in 2019/20 and 2020/21 will still be eligible for the lower home fee. This will not change throughout their degree, which means they will continue to pay the home rate for each year of their program.

It is currently unclear whether EU students studying in the UK from 2021/22 onwards will be charged the higher overseas rate, or remain on the home rate.

Will EU students still be eligible for financial support?

The UK governments have also confirmed that students starting a course in the UK before the 2020/21 academic year will still be eligible for financial support for the duration of their program.

This means in England for example, EU students will retain access to financial support from Student Finance England.

In Scotland students can continue to benefit from free tuition for the whole of their course and living cost support for those that meet the requirements during this period.

The financial support arrangements for EU students studying in the UK from 2021/22 onwards are yet to be confirmed.

How will it affect relatives visiting students in the UK?

During the transition period, the rules remain the same and families visiting EU students can come to the UK using their passport or national identity card.

It has not been confirmed what rules will apply after the transition period ends on 1 January 2021, but the government has suggested that they will no longer accept national identity cards.

Depending on the length of stay, visiting relatives may need a travel visa to travel to the UK from 2021 onwards. Visitors may also need to ensure their passports are valid for at least six months before travelling to the UK.

How will it affect UK students studying in the EU?

The situation facing UK students studying, or planning to study, a degree in an EU country is likely to be similar to European students studying in the UK.

Currently, UK students benefit from lower tuition fees in many EU countries, and can even study for free in some places. However, this may change following the transition period, and UK students starting their studies in the EU after 1 January 2021 may be:

  • Charged full international student tuition fee rates
  • Require a study visa in order to attend a university in the EU

From 1 January 2021, you may need to renew your British passport before you can travel to an EEA country. On the day you travel, your passport will need to:

  • Have at least six months left before it expires
  • Be less than 10 years old

Can you still use an EHIC after brexit?

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives EU/EEA residents travelling to another EEA country the right to access state provided healthcare. The EHIC will still be valid during the transition period, but it may no longer be available from 1 January 2021.

EU students studying in the UK are required to have valid Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CSI). However, having an EHIC satisfies this requirement as long as they’re not intending to remain in the UK permanently. After Brexit, their access to healthcare will be protected once they apply for pre-settled or settled status, so they shouldn’t need an EHIC or CSI.

Students travelling to any country overseas should make sure they have valid long term study abroad travel insurance, regardless of whether or not they have a valid EHIC. Insurance could not only cover medical expenses, but can also protect against theft or things like delayed or cancelled flights.

Will the Erasmus+ program continue?

The Erasmus+ program is an EU funded initiative that organizes student exchanges across Europe. It allows students from Europe to come to study part of their degree programs in the UK, and vice versa for UK students. It’s designed to help students gain valuable international experience.

As part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement it has been confirmed the UK will continue to participate in the program after the 31 January 2020. The Eramus+ program is due to end in 2020, and it is unclear what relationship the UK will have with any future programs.

Will EU students be welcome in the UK after Brexit?

Yes - the UK remains a warm and welcoming country to all international students and visitors, and is justifiably one of the most popular destinations for students studying abroad.

The UK offers some of the best and most highly respected universities in the world, and the growing popularity of English taught programs make it an attractive option for studying abroad.

Universities are eager to ensure international students feel confident and welcome to come and study in the UK. Campaigns like #WeAreInternational aim to show students that the UK remains an accepting place to work and study.