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Brexit & British Boarding Schools - Your Questions Answered

Last updated: 4 March 2020

With multiple proposed Brexit dates having come and gone, the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. We’re keen to give as much clarity as possible to current and prospective students coming to study at independent boarding schools in England, Scotland and Wales & Northern Ireland. We have set out below an updated series of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that will hopefully be a useful point of reference. If anything is not clear, or you have questions that are not listed below, please do get in touch with us.

1 - What rights did EU, EEA & Swiss students coming to boarding school in the UK have before Brexit?

As a member state of the EU the United Kingdom (UK) welcomed any and all EU, EEA & Swiss citizens who wished to come to the UK to live, work or study, without restriction.

 

2 - What countries are in the EEA?

The European Economic Area (EEA) includes the 27 EU member states (now excluding the UK) plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway, which are part of the European single market. Switzerland is not in the EEA but is in the single market via a series of bilateral agreements with the EU.

Switzerland, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway are also separately part of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

3 - What is the status of Brexit?

Following the Brexit referendum in June 2016, the British Government began the formal Brexit process by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on 29 March 2017, which triggered a 2 year countdown to Brexit at 11pm British time on 29 March 2019.

The relatively simple question put to the British electorate in the 2016 referendum was followed by a fierce debate amongst politicians over what form Brexit should take.

With the Government unable to gain sufficient support in the UK Parliament to win the vote needed to approve the Withdrawal Agreement it had negotiated with the EU, there were several extensions to the Brexit date to allow British Members of Parliament (MPs) to reach a consensus and avoid a No Deal Brexit. Ultimately a General Election was held on 13 December 2019, the result of which enabled the Conservative Government to pass a revised version of the Withdrawal Agreement, and subsequently the UK formally left the EU on 31 January 2020. This has avoided the possibility that the UK would leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement, known as a No Deal Brexit

The UK and the EU are now in a Transitional Period, that lasts until 31 December 2020, intended to allow the negotiation of the future relationship between the UK and the EU that will govern how they interact going forward. However, the relatively small amount of time available, combined with the negotiating positions adopted by the two sides, means that it is possible that they will not agree on the entire future relationship by 31 December 2020, and so we may face a new ‘No Deal’ scenario in the run-up to that date.

It’s impossible to predict exactly what this may mean in practice or how events will unfold over the next year or so. We can however be confident that Brexit will continue to dominate the headlines for some time to come!

4 - Why is the UK leaving the EU?

Be assured that not all British people wanted to leave the EU, although the referendum did result in a 52%-48% split in favour of Brexit.

Unsurprisingly the reasons for Brexit are complex, but broadly speaking they include a desire to limit immigration in order to ease pressure on jobs, communities and services, to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses, to increase democratic accountability, and to gain the benefits of free trade with the wider world.

Set against this were those who enjoyed the freedom to travel, live and work across the EU and believed that EU membership has been beneficial to the UK. They believed that the benefits of EU membership outweighed the costs that came with being part of the world’s largest trading bloc.

5 - Will EU, EEA & Swiss students still be welcome at boarding schools in Britain after Brexit?

Absolutely! In a letter to us in October 2018 the then British Home Secretary Sajid Javid stated that:

 “I would like to provide my reassurances that there is no limit on the number of international students who can come to study in the UK, and no intention to impose one.”

Please be assured that the contribution of international students to the Welsh, Scottish and English boarding schools sector is highly valued and international families can be confident that their children will be welcomed at boarding schools in the UK for many years to come.

6 - I’m from a country outside the EU, EEA and Switzerland. How will all this affect me?

Until 31 December 2020 the British immigration process for prospective students from countries outside the EU, EEA and Switzerland will remain the Tier 4 Student (child) visa.

From 1 January 2021 a new ‘points-based’ immigration system similar to that currently used in Australia will apply. It is intended to prevent uncontrolled immigration and to ensure that immigrant workers have qualifications and skills needed by the British economy.

Under the new system prospective students from countries outside the EU, EEA and Switzerland will still need to obtain a visa in advance of arriving in the UK, with requirements broadly similar to the Tier 4 Student (Child) visa currently required i.e. that they have consent from a parent/guardian and an unconditional offer from an approved UK Boarding School, can speak English adequately for the proposed course of study and are able to pay the boarding fees during their time at a British school.

The application process will be online but citizens from countries outside the EU, EEA and Switzerland must attend an approved Visa Application Centre (VAC) in a country outside the UK to submit their biometric data (a digital photograph and fingerprints). In addition, at least to begin with, these students will receive a physical (i.e. paper) confirmation of their visa.

The new system is due to open for applications in August 2020 to allow time for them to be processed before the end of the Transitional Period (31 December 2020).

7 - What is the Withdrawal Agreement?

Following the invoking of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on 29 March 2017 the British Government and the EU negotiated the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU. These terms were collectively known as the Withdrawal Agreement, which was originally agreed by EU leaders at a special meeting of the European Council on 25 November 2018.

The Withdrawal Agreement included a period between the Brexit date and 31 December 2020, known as the Transitional Period, intended to provide time for the UK and the EU to negotiate and formally agree their future relationship.

In order to take effect however, the Withdrawal Agreement had to be ratified by the UK Parliament. This proved very difficult to achieve and it required a change of Prime Minister, a renegotiation of the agreement, further delay and a subsequent general election before the Conservative Government was able to obtain Parliament’s approval.

As things stand the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020 and the Withdrawal Agreement has taken effect.

8 - What is the Transitional Period?

The Withdrawal Agreement included a Transitional Period between the Brexit date (31 January 2020) and 31 December 2020, intended to provide time for the UK and the EU to negotiate and formally agree their future relationship.

Whilst the Brexit date was delayed a number of times the end of Transitional Period has not been extended beyond 31 December 2020, leaving a shorter period in which to agree a future relationship.

The British Government has confirmed that during the Transitional Period, although the UK will have left the EU, EU citizens living in Britain will be able to ‘carry on their lives broadly as now’.

9 - What is a No Deal Brexit?

If a Withdrawal Agreement had not been approved by the UK Parliament by the revised Brexit deadline of 31 January 2020, the UK would have left the EU without an agreement and there would have be no Transitional Period in which to negotiate a future relationship. This would have been a No Deal Brexit and would have had consequences for economic, administrative, security and travel processes.

The approval of the revised Withdrawal Agreement by the UK Parliament has avoided this scenario, but it is worth noting that the period available to negotiate the future relationship between the UK and the EU will end on 31 December 2020. To the extent that these negotiations are incomplete by that date there is potential for a new ‘No Deal’ scenario.

10 - What restrictions will EU, EEA & Swiss students coming to boarding schools in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland after Brexit face?

EU, EEA & Swiss students will be able to enter the UK with just a passport or their national ID card in the period between the UK leaving the EU and 31 December 2020. Nothing else should be required on arrival and no applications should need to be submitted in advance.

Once in the UK the length of time that students will be able to remain will depend on when they first arrived in the UK, and whether they apply for Settled Status before the deadline of 30 June 2021.

If already attending a British boarding school before 31 December 2020:

Until 30 June 2021 just a passport or national ID card will be required at ports of entry to enter the UK and study at a British boarding school. If a student’s stay at their boarding school may extend beyond 30 June 2021, or they intend to go on from boarding school to University and/or live/work in Britain beyond 30 June 2021, they will have until that date to apply for Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

If joining a British boarding school after 31 December 2020, or if already at a School by that date but elect not to apply for Settled Status by 30 June 2021:

These students will be subject to a new ‘points-based’ UK immigration system, similar to that currently used in Australia. It is intended to prevent uncontrolled immigration and to ensure that immigrant workers have qualifications and skills needed by the British economy.

Prospective students will need to obtain an E-visa in advance of arriving in the UK, with requirements broadly similar to the Tier 4 Student (Child) visa currently required of non-EEA students i.e. that they have consent from a parent/guardian and an unconditional offer from an approved UK Boarding School, can speak English adequately for the proposed course of study and are able to pay the boarding fees during their time at a British school.

The application process will be online and it is expected that most EU, EEA and Swiss citizens will be able to submit their biometrics (a digital photo) and upload documentary support from their home country using an Android or iphone smartphone app. Successful recipients of the E-visa will be able to view their immigration status and supporting documentation online where it can also be accessed by relevant British Government departments.

11 - What is the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)?

One of the main challenges of Brexit for the British Government is ensuring that EU, EEA & Swiss citizens resident in the UK are fairly treated. To address this the British Government has introduced the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), which was intended to run broadly in tandem with the Transitional Period, and applies equally to citizens of EEA countries and Switzerland.

The EUSS permits EU, EEA & Swiss citizens resident in the UK as at the Brexit date (31 January 2020), or who come to the UK between the Brexit date and 31 December 2020, to apply for Settled Status. Eligible applicants with 5 years Continuous Residence in the UK will receive Settled Status whilst those with less than 5 years Continuous Residence, including all those who come to the UK between the Brexit date and 31 December 2020, will receive Pre-settled Status.

12 - What is Settled Status?

EU, EEA & Swiss citizens who attain 5 years Continuous Residence in the UK at any time up until 31 December 2020 will be eligible for Settled Status.

Settled Status entitles holders to live, study and work in Britain indefinitely, to travel to and from the UK, to use the NHS and to obtain state benefits. Once obtained, Settled Status will lapse if the holder is not resident in the UK for a period in excess of 5 years.

13 - What is Pre-Settled Status?

EU, EEA & Swiss citizens with less than 5 years Continuous Residence in the UK will, at any time up until 31 December 2020, be eligible for Pre-settled Status.

Holders of Pre-settled Status are entitled to live, study and work in Britain for up to 5 further years, and in that period to travel to and from the UK, use the NHS and obtain state benefits. They become eligible to apply for Settled Status if they subsequently complete the 5 year period of Continuous Residence. Pre-settled status will lapse if a holder is not resident in the UK for a period in excess of 2 years.

14 - What if my parent already has Settled Status or Pre-Settled Status?

EU, EEA & Swiss citizens under the age of 21 can apply to take on the Settled/Pre-settled status of their parent/parent’s partner.

15 - What is Continuous Residence?

To count as Continuous Residence the applicant needs to have been resident in the UK for at least 6 months in each of the 5 years, with dispensation given for an absence of up to 1 year for ‘an important reason’.

16 - How do I apply for Settled Status?

The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) was available for applications as of 21 January 2019. Initially costing £65 for those 16 or over and £32.50 for under 16s, the process is now free and any fees already paid over will be refunded. Application can be by post or entirely online, including the upload of required documentation via an iphone or Android Smartphone App.

Required documentation includes:

·        A passport or national ID card (to apply online this must be biometric);

·        A photograph taken against a plain background (to apply online this must be digital);

·        A letter/certificate from a British boarding school showing the dates of the pupil’s enrolment at the boarding school and the date they are expected to complete their course;

·        An invoice for fees from the boarding school that evidences payment; and

·        A letter providing parental consent for the pupil to attend the boarding school.

Once a status is awarded it will be recorded on British Home Office Systems and the applicant will receive a link by email to an online service that they can use to view and prove their status going forward. The window for applications will remain open until 30 June 2021.

17 - When will the new British immigration system come into force?

It’s intended that the UK’s new immigration system, as outlined in a policy statement in February 2020, will come into force from 1 January 2021.

18 - How will the new UK immigration system work?

In February 2020 the British Government published a policy statement setting out its proposals for a new ‘points-based’ immigration system to apply to foreign citizens who come to the UK after 31 December 2020, or who arrive from the EE, EEA or Switzerland by that date but elect not to apply for Pre-settled/Settled Status  by the closing date of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

The new system is due to open for applications  in August 2020 to allow time for them to be processed before the end of the Transitional Period on 31 December 2020.

Whilst the process will be similar for all foreign students there are some differences worth noting, depending on where students come from:

EU/EEA/Swiss students coming to the UK to study in British boarding schools after 31 December 2020

An E-visa will be required in advance of arriving in the UK, with requirements broadly similar to the Tier 4 Student (Child) visa currently required of non-EEA students i.e. that they have consent from a parent/guardian and an unconditional offer from an approved UK Boarding School, can speak English adequately for the proposed course of study and are able to pay the boarding fees during their time at a British school.

The application process will be online and it is expected that most EU, EEA and Swiss citizens will be able to submit their biometrics (a digital photo) and upload documentary support from their home country using an Android or iphone smartphone app. Successful recipients of the E-visa will be able to view their immigration status and supporting documentation online where it can also be accessed by relevant British Government departments.

It is worth noting that whilst valid passports will continue to be accepted as proof of identity at UK border crossings for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens after 31 December 2020, national ID cards may no longer be accepted.

EU/EEA/Swiss students who begin their studies at a British boarding school before 31 December 2020 and wish to continue, but elect not to apply for Pre-settled/Settled Status by the closing date of the EU Settlement Scheme (30 June 2021)

These students will go through the same process set out above, but may submit their application whilst in the UK. The deadline for these students to submit their application is 30 June 2021.

Non-EU/EEA/Swiss students coming to the UK to study in British boarding schools after 31 December 2020 (who do not already possess a valid Tier 4 Student (child) visa).

The main differences to the process set out above are as follows:

Whilst the application process will be online these students must attend an approved Visa Application Centre (VAC) in a country outside the UK to submit their biometric data (a digital photograph and fingerprints). In addition, at least to begin with, these students will receive a physical paper confirmation of their visa rather than an E-visa and they won’t subsequently have an online resource that proves their eligibility.

19 - Where can I find further information and/or apply?