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News: First-year Students From EU Face Large Fees If Not In UK By End Of 2020

At a time when the UK Government should be doing all they can to encourage people and businesses to come to the UK, it appears that EU students may face a nasty financial shock due to Brexit. The Guardian newspaper recently ran an article explaining the difficult situation awaiting EU students who have enrolled in a course in a UK university but have been unable to physically come due to COVID-19. This is because EU students, under free movement, can currently come to the UK and study without needing to apply for a visa or pay the healthcare surcharge, but this will not apply from next year unless they secure EU settled status. Unfortunately, to secure settled status, they have to be physically in the UK by the end of 2020.

What Charges May EU Students Who Have Been Unable To Come To The UK Face?

EU students may face additional costs if they do not set foot on British soil before 1st January 2021, including:

  • Student visa application fee: £348 (if applying for a student visa from outside the UK)
  • Healthcare surcharge: £470 for each year of study

This means that an EU student studying for three years will pay £1,410 just in healthcare surcharges. The Guardian explains the situation of Lithuanian student, Mantas Gudelis, aged 19, who is studying biochemistry at the University of Edinburgh. While he is currently studying from home in Vilnius, he will face these charges next year. Mantas told the Guardian, “The university have told us quite a few times about this. It is sad for me because it is quite a financial hit. The health surcharge over four years is £2,000 and for my family that is a lot of money, especially as one of my parents was laid off because of the pandemic. The system should allow us to come because this is not our fault”. Given the additional context of COVID-19, such costs may be unaffordable and may result in students from the EU having to pull out of their courses completely, with a resulting loss for the student and the university.

EU Students Who Do Come To The UK On Time May Still Face Challenges

In the case of an EU student who is able to make the trip to the UK for the purposes of being able to apply for settled status, they may then face a challenge in proving that they have been resident in the UK. The EU settlement scheme website states that the following can be used as evidence of residence in the UK:

  • bank statement showing payments received or spending in the UK
  • payslip for a UK-based job
  • water, gas or electricity bill showing a UK address
  • landline or mobile telephone, TV or internet bill showing a UK address
  • domestic bill, such as for home repairs, vet’s services or insurance, and evidence of payment
  • card or letter from your GP, hospital or other healthcare professional confirming appointments you have made or attended
  • letter from a government department, public service or charity that show you dealt with them on a particular date or for a particular period (for example JobCentre Plus or Citizens Advice)
  • passport stamp confirming entry at the UK border
  • used travel ticket confirming you entered the UK from another country
  • invoice for work you have done in the UK and evidence of payment

Clearly, a person who has just arrived in the country is unlikely to have many of these, but they will have either (or both) a passport stamp or a travel ticket. The immigration rules confirm that only one of these is required; “When you apply to the EU settlement scheme you will not need to provide evidence for your entire UK residence – just enough to show whether you qualify for settled or pre-settled status. You should only need to provide 1 document dated in the last six months to be granted pre-settled status. All the documents you submit as evidence must be dated and have your name on them. You should only provide one piece of evidence to cover each month or longer period of time”.

What Is The Sunset Clause?

For any EU citizen who is able to get to the UK before the end of 2020, there will be no need to apply for EU pre-settled or settled status until the end of June 2021. As long as the application is made before this date, they will be able to continue to enjoy the same rights to live and study as they currently have.

Is It Likely The Home Office Will Offer An Exception To EU Students In This Situation?

At present, there is no indication from the UK government that they will put in place an exception for EU students who have been unable to enter the UK to commence their studies. According to a Home Office spokesperson quoted in the Guardian, “Individuals only need to be here for a day before the deadline on 31 December. If an individual has arrived in the UK on 31 December, they will still be eligible to apply for pre-settled status”….We have been clear that students, like all other EEA and Swiss citizens, must be resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 to have rights under the Citizens’ Rights Agreements”.

Wrapping Up

It is certainly disappointing that no allowance so far has been made by the Home Office to make it easier for EU students who have been unable to come to the UK due to COVID-19 to remain eligible for settled status if they arrive after the end of 2020. The best advice is that where possible, EU students who can make the trip to ensure their eligibility for settled status should do so. If you are unsure of the best approach, speak to an immigration Solicitor in the UK who will be glad to assist you.

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