What does Brexit mean for EU students coming to the UK?

European Union flags

This article was written by the Great British Mag content team on 9 February 2021. 

Wondering if the UK’s separation from the European Union will impact you as a non-UK student looking to study at a British university? There have been some changes to student visa requirements and fees, so read on to find out how these updates will affect you. 

What is Brexit?

Back in June 2016, British citizens were given a vote to decide whether the country should remain in the European Union. The majority of people voted to leave the EU, so Brexit (Britain’s exit) was set in motion. 

Brexit happened on 31 January 2020, although the transition period lasted until 31 December 2020, meaning many of the changes only came into effect in 2021. 

Which students does Brexit affect?

Any citizens of countries in the European Union as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland were able to move freely in and out of the UK and live, work and study here as they wish before Brexit. But now that the UK has left the EU, this agreement has changed and so impacts all students who come from those countries. 

If you’re not from an EU or EEA country then Brexit won’t impact you – the student visa application process remains the same. 

And if you’re Irish, nothing has changed for you either – you can still come to live and study in the UK freely, as before. 

What has changed for EU and EEA students coming to the UK?

Students coming to the UK from any of the 27 countries in the European Union or from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland to study for more than six months now need to apply for a student visa, just like other international students. 

If you’re applying from outside the UK, the earliest you can do this is six months before the start of your course, and if you’re already here, then that’s reduced to three months. (If you’re in the UK on a different visa, you’ll need to submit your application before your current one expires, and it must not lapse any sooner than 28 days before the start of your course).

To apply for a student visa, you’ll need a valid passport, a confirmed place on a UK university course and a Confirmation of Acceptance (CAS) number, which your university will provide you with. 

You can start your application on the UK government’s website.

It’s worth remembering that your student visa is only valid for the specific course and university that you listed in your application. If you change your mind about your university or course, you’ll need to reapply for your visa with the new course details. 

What are the costs associated with the student visa?

There are a couple of different costs that EU and EEA students will now incur when applying for student visas. 

The visa application itself costs £348 if you’re doing it from outside the UK, or £475 if you apply while you’re already here on another visa. 

You may also need to pay a healthcare surcharge as part of your visa application, which is £470 per year for students. This gives you access to medical care through the National Health Service (NHS). If, however, your home country usually covers your healthcare, you may be exempt from having to pay this.  

Does Brexit affect university fees?

Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland used to be eligible for UK university ‘home fees’, which meant they’d pay the same for tuition as British and Irish students. 

Because of Brexit, this no longer applies. For those starting courses in the academic year 2021/22, the fees are now the same as for other international students, which are often higher than home fees. 

Also, EU students are no longer eligible for loans or financial help from the UK’s student finance system to pay for tuition fees. 

How long can I stay in the UK as an EU student?

Your student visa will cover the duration of your course, so its length will depend on how long your degree is. Most undergraduate degrees are three years. 

If you’d like to stay in the UK to work after your course finishes, then so long as you completed and passed your degree, you may be eligible for a post-study work visa, also called The Graduate Route, which lasts for two years. 

When that expires, depending on the job you’re in, you may be able to prolong your stay further with a skilled work visa. But you’ll need to be in a specific type of employment to be eligible. Here’s a list of eligible jobs.

Are there any exceptions to these changes?

Yes: if you are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen and were living in the UK before 31 December 2020, you may be able to live and study here under the terms that were in place when you arrived, pre-Brexit. 

This could mean you don’t need a student visa, don’t have to pay the healthcare surcharge and are still subject to the same lower tuition fees as UK residents. In other words, none of the above changes may apply to you. 

You will, however, need to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, which is free. Applications are open until 30 June 2021, but it’s recommended to get this process underway as soon as possible. 

Will the Erasmus programme continue?

Erasmus is an exchange programme which allows students from across the EU to study in other EU countries for up to a year, fully funded.

When Britain parted ways with the EU it also left the Erasmus programme. This means that there is currently no scheme for exchange students in place, although the British government has promised that it will develop a new exchange programme in the future – so keep your eyes peeled!

You may also want to read

10 things international students should know about studying in the UK

New UK student visa explained – 2021

Can I stay in the UK to work after I graduate?