The new "Student visa system" - a reminder

International students continue to be a highly valued component of the UK higher education system, and EU / EEA / Swiss nationals will form an important aspect of that student body with effect from 1 January 2021, when the EU transition period concludes.  

As a reminder:

  • Until 31 December 2020, EU, EEA and Swiss citizens may enter or remain in the UK in line with European law, as implemented through the EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement and UK Brexit legislation.
  • EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who are, or will already be, in the UK by 31 December 2020 may apply for permission to remain in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme.
  • A new “Student route” opened on 5 October 2020 for applications made outside of the UK for the purpose of entering the UK to study from 1 January 2021.  Successful applicants will be granted a “Student visa”, rather than a “Tier 4 visa”.
  • The new Student route will not open for applications by EU / EEA / Swiss citizens already within the UK until 31 December 2020.

All “Student sponsors” (previously known as “Tier 4 sponsors”) must continue to take careful steps to safeguard their “Student sponsor licence” by fulfilling the varied obligations prescribed within the “Student sponsor guidance” which was published by UKVI in October.  

The new guidance does not represent, in the main, a significant departure from the previous Tier 4 guidance, with the four composite documents being largely carried over to the new system in verbatim form (with some exceptions) . 

However, while many of the operational aspects of compliance relating to student circumstances are firmly established within institutions’ procedures (for example, relating to student monitoring and reporting), it is sensible to refresh on the wider responsibilities which must be discharged. For example, sponsors are required to report a number of changes relating to the institution itself, including if a new principal is appointed, or the institution is involved in a takeover or merger or other similar change.

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