International students and Brexit

On 31 January 2020, the so-called Brexit happened, as the United Kingdom (UK) left the European Union (EU) on the basis of the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU. A separate agreement had been negotiated between the UK and the EEA EFTA States (these are Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein) and Switzerland.

Practical implications of Brexit and who is affected?

What Brexit actually means for you will depend on when you will be arriving in the UK or whether you are in fact already in the UK. The immediate effects for international, non-European students are probably small.

If you are not a domestic student or an EU student, but your university would classify you as an international student, there is the very little impact that Brexit might have on your plans to study in the UK. What this means is that you do not have to worry too much if you are from outside the EU, as your visa requirements together with the tuition fees are very likely to be handled in the same way as they are now.

If, however, you come from one of the EU countries, Brexit might have a negative impact on your academic prospects. Currently, there is no change to the position of EEA nationals (EU, non-EU EEA and Swiss citizens) and their family members in the UK during the so-called “transitional period” which means that students and their family members that are already in the UK can go on as before. However, if you are in the UK currently and intend to stay beyond 31 December 2020 or come to the UK from 1 January 2021, you will need to apply for immigration permission by certain deadlines, depending on when you arrive in the UK. The transitional (or implementation) period is likely to only continue until 31 December 2020, so it is advisable to enroll on the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) as quickly as possible so as not to miss out on any benefits that stem from the former free movement and European law. 

Students intending to study in the UK in 2020-21

EU, non-EU EEA nationals and Swiss citizens and their eligible family members can still benefit from the EU free movement and come to the UK without any restrictions until 31 December 2020. They are however encouraged to by the UK government to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme before 30 June 2021. The registration under the EUSS is required for those who wish to remain in the UK after the end of the transitional period. Anyone meaning to come to the UK from 1 January 2021 will need to regularise their immigration status in line with the Immigration Rules that will be in place at that time.

Students intending to study in the UK in 2021-22

There will be a new immigration system (expected to be in place from 1 January 2021). Again, those wishing to come to the UK from January 2021 will need to apply under the relevant category of the Immigration Rules in place at that time, but there is currently not enough information to provide further details and we shall, of course, keep you updated.  

We advise our clients on all aspects of immigration law, if you need further advice on the implications of Brexit if you already are, or are planning to come to the UK as an international student,  please get in touch today on 0203 146 3549 / e:mail:


All our articles are intended for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information provided. 

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