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Brexit & British Boarding Schools - Your Questions Answered

Last updated: 10 October 2019

As the original Brexit date of 29 March 2019 has come and gone, and with a new Brexit ‘deadline’ of 31 October 2019 in place we’re keen to give as much clarity as possible to current and prospective EU, EEA & Swiss 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 do EU, EEA & Swiss students coming to boarding school in the UK have now, before Brexit?

As a member state of the EU the United Kingdom (UK) welcomes any and all EU, EEA & Swiss citizens who wish to come to the UK to live, work or study, without restriction. Students coming to study at British boarding schools after Brexit will have more red tape to comply with, but to ease the burden the UK government is putting in place more user-friendly web-based application systems, making the process as smooth and simple as possible.

 

2 - What countries are in the EEA?

The European Economic Area (EEA) includes the 28 EU member states (currently including 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 has been followed by a fierce debate amongst politicians over what form Brexit should take. Advocates of the various positions have remained intractable.

As a result, the British government has thus far been unable to gain sufficient support in the UK Parliament to win the vote needed to approve the Withdrawal Agreement it negotiated with the EU.

This has led to several extensions to the Brexit date to allow British Members of Parliament (MPs) to reach a consensus and avoid a No Deal Brexit. The latest extension has set a revised ‘flexible’ Brexit deadline of 31 October 2019. If the UK Parliament approves some form of agreement acceptable to the EU before that date the UK can leave immediately, but if it doesn’t then on 31 October 2019 the UK will leave the EU without one – a No Deal Brexit. To complicate things even further opposition MPs have been able to pass a law requiring the current British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to request a further 3 month extension to the Brexit deadline if an agreement with the EU is not reached by 19 October 2019, something he insists he will not do.

All outcomes still remain possible. Negotiations with the EU may yield a compromise agreement that British MPs will vote for, or there may be a No Deal Brexit. There is much support for a second referendum that could result in the UK revoking Article 50 and remaining in the EU, whilst a General Election could quite possibly be called. If a new government was elected it could seek to revisit the whole Brexit process, leading to further delays and negotiations. All that can be said for certain is that Brexit will continue to dominate the news for quite some time to come.

4 - Why is the UK leaving the EU?

Be assured that not all British people want to leave the EU, although the referendum did result in a 52%-48% split in favour of Brexit, and the current British Government believes it is essential to respect the result.

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 are those who enjoy the freedom to travel, live and work across the EU and believe that EU membership has been beneficial to the UK. They believe that the benefits of EU membership outweigh the costs that come 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 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?

It won’t. The British immigration regulations and processes will stay exactly the same after Brexit for citizens of countries outside the EU, EEA and Switzerland.

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 are collectively known as the Withdrawal Agreement, which was agreed by EU leaders at a special meeting of the European Council on 25 November 2018.

The Withdrawal Agreement includes 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 must be ratified by the UK Parliament. Despite bringing the matter to a vote on 3 separate occasions the Government has to date been unable to broker sufficient consensus to win the vote. As things stand it appears that the Withdrawal Agreement is unlikely to be ratified in its current form.

If subsequent changes are negotiated with the EU it is unlikely that they would affect the current proposals for EU students travelling to study at boarding schools in the UK.

8 - What is the Transitional Period?

The Withdrawal Agreement includes a Transitional Period between the Brexit date and 31 December 2020, intended to provide time for the UK and the EU to negotiate and formally agree their 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?

As things stand, if by 31 October 2019 the British Prime Minister has not requested a 90 day extension to the Brexit deadline and the UK Parliament has not approved some form of agreement acceptable to the EU, the UK will leave the EU without an agreement. This would be a No Deal Brexit and would have consequences for economic, administrative, security and travel processes. There would also be no Transitional Period in which to negotiate a future relationship. Both the EU and the British Government are seeking to put in place contingency plans to minimise the impact and ensure that core interactions continue to function as normally as possible in the event of No Deal.

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

Whether or not an agreement in some form is implemented, 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, whether the UK leaves with the Withdrawal Agreement and whether they apply for an immigration status for which they are eligible.

With the Withdrawal Agreement

  • If already attending a British boarding school by the Brexit date (currently 31 October 2019) or joining one between then and 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:

Under draft government legislation published on 19 December 2018, known as a White Paper, EU, EEA & Swiss students coming to the UK to study in British boarding schools after 31 December 2020 for periods of up to 6 months will need to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation. Those coming for longer stays will need to obtain an E-visa in advance of arriving in the UK, with requirements similar to the Tier 4 Student (Child) visa currently required of non-EEA students.

Without an agreement - No Deal

  • If already attending a British boarding school by the Brexit date:

Until 31 December 2020 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 31 December 2020, or they intend to go on from boarding school to University and/or live/work in Britain beyond 31 December 2020, they will have until that date to apply for Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

  • If joining a British boarding school between the Brexit date and 31 December 2020:

Until 31 December 2020 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, and nothing further is required if a student's stay in the UK will end by 31 December 2020. If the stay will extend beyond 31 December 2020 students will have until that date to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain (Euro TLR), which would give them the right to live, work and study in the UK for up to 3 years. Euro TLR is not extendable or renewable and so at the end of 3 years, if they want to stay longer, students would need to apply for status under the new British immigration system currently being developed.

  • If joining a British boarding school after 31 December 2020:

Under draft government legislation published on 19 December 2018, known as a White Paper, EU, EEA & Swiss students coming to the UK to study in British boarding schools after 31 December 2020 for periods of up to 6 months will need to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation, whilst those coming for longer stays will need to obtain an E-visa in advance of arriving in the UK, with requirements similar to the Tier 4 Student (Child) visa currently required of non-EEA students.

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.

Assuming the Withdrawal Agreement is approved the EUSS permits EU, EEA & Swiss citizens resident in the UK as at the Brexit date (currently 31 October 2019), 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.

If the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved and there is No Deal, EU, EEA & Swiss citizens will only be able to apply for Settled Status if they were resident in the UK as at the Brexit date. Students arriving after the UK leaves the EU with No Deal who want to remain in the UK beyond 31 December 2020 will need to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain (Euro TLR) by that date.

12 - What is Settled Status?

Assuming the Withdrawal Agreement is approved EU, EEA & Swiss citizens who attain 5 years Continuous Residence in the UK at any time up until 31 December 2020 would 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.

If the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved and there is No Deal, EU, EEA & Swiss citizens will only be eligible for Settled Status if they were resident in the UK as at the Brexit date, currently 31 October 2019. Students arriving after the UK leaves the EU in the event of No Deal who want to remain in the UK beyond 31 December 2020 will need to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain (Euro TLR) by that date.

13 - What is Pre-Settled Status?

Assuming the Withdrawal Agreement is approved EU, EEA & Swiss citizens with less than 5 years Continuous Residence in the UK would, 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.

If the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved and there is No Deal, EU, EEA & Swiss citizens will only be eligible for Pre-settled Status if they were resident in the UK as at the Brexit date, currently 31 October 2019. Students arriving after the UK leaves the EU in the event of No Deal who want to remain in the UK beyond 31 December 2020 will need to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain (Euro TLR) by that date.

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 Android Smartphone App.

Required documentation includes:

  • 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 taken with an Android phone);

  • 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, provided that the Withdrawal Agreement is implemented, or 31 December 2020 if not.

17 - Will the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) operate if there is a No Deal Brexit?

Partly. The British Government has confirmed that the scheme will still operate in the event of a No-Deal Brexit, with the following key differences:

  • Applications will have to be submitted by 31 December 2020 at the latest.

  • Only those EU, EEA & Swiss citizens resident in Britain as at the Brexit date (currently 31 October 2019) will be eligible to apply.

  • EU, EEA & swiss students arriving between that date and 31 December 2020 will not be eligible, but can instead apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain (Euro TLR).

18 - What is European Temporary Leave to Remain (Euro TLR)?

In the event of a No Deal Brexit EU, EEA & Swiss students coming to Britain between the Brexit date (currently 31 October 2019) and 31 December 2020 will be able to travel to boarding schools in Britain and study there until 31 December 2020 without obtaining any immigration status or visa in advance.

To stay beyond 31 December 2020 in a No Deal scenario students will need to apply for ‘European Temporary Leave to Remain’ (Euro TLR) by that date. Euro TLR will give EU, EEA & Swiss citizens the right to live, study or work in the UK for up to 3 years from the the status is confirmed. Euro TLR status will be digital and holders will be able to evidence their right to live, work and study in the UK via their passports or national ID cards.

Euro TLR is temporary and non-extendable however, so once the 3 year period finishes EU, EEA & Swiss citizens who want to stay longer will have to apply via the new immigration system due for introduction in January 2021.

19 - How do I apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain (Euro TLR)?

The application process for Euro TLR will only be required if a No Deal Brexit becomes a reality and so it has not yet been launched. We do however know that it is intended to be a simple online system, free of charge, that proof of identity will be required and that there will also be security and criminal record checks.

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

It’s intended that the UK’s new immigration system, as outlined in a White Paper published on 19 December 2018, will come into force from 1 January 2021, irrespective of whether the Withdrawal Agreement is approved.

21 - How will the new UK immigration system work?

On 19 December 2018 the British Government published draft legislation setting out its proposals for new immigration rules to apply to EU, EEA & Swiss citizens who come to the UK after 31 December 2020, or who arrived before that date but have not obtained Pre-settled/Settled Status or European Temporary Leave to Remain (Euro TLR) by the closing date of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

Broadly speaking the new rules will move EU, EEA & Swiss students coming to British boarding schools more into line with the Tier 4 (Child) Study Visas currently required of students aged 4-17 from non-EEA countries, although there may be a ‘light-touch’ approach for citizens of EU countries and others that have a good track record in complying with visa restrictions.

This means that after 31 December 2020 EU, EEA & Swiss students coming to British boarding schools will need to fulfill the following central requirements of a Tier 4 (Child) Study Visa application:

  • Consent from a parent/guardian

  • Proof of a confirmed offer from the British boarding school sponsoring the student

  • Proof of ability to pay the boarding school’s fees

  • Proof of appropriate academic ability and proficiency in English

The Government intends to streamline the application and approval process by using some of the web-based technology developed for the EUSS. This should mean that applications can be completed online and documentary support uploaded from EU, EEA & Swiss citizens’ home countries. Successful applicants will receive an E-visa rather than a piece of paper and will be able to view their status and supporting documentation online where it can also be accessed by relevant British Government departments, thereby reducing unnecessary duplication and repetition where visa holders submit other applications.

For shorter study courses of less than 6 months it’s expected that EU, EEA & Swiss students aged 4-17 will follow the short-term study route, requiring only an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA).

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