With so much having been written in recent months about EU nationals and their family members in the run-up to the March Brexit date, it is perhaps surprising that so little has been said in respect of the government’s proposals for EU children wishing to pursue their schooling here.
Further, although currently no major changes to the arrangements for EU children studying in the UK are envisaged prior to the introduction of the UK’s proposed new skills-based immigration system in 2021, the position of EU children until that time is highly contingent on how the UK leaves the EU next month. Indeed, under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK Government and the EU (signed last November), EU national children who come to the UK to study after the UK leaves the EU will not face any immigration restrictions on pursuing their schooling in the UK until the new rules will come into force in 2021.
The difficulty arises however, if this (or a similar) agreement does not come into force and the UK ‘crashes out’ of the EU as part of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. In this scenario, EU nationals who come to the UK after 29 March 2019 and wish to stay for over three months will need to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain before this three month period expires. It is to be stressed that these arrangements are not yet certain and we must await the outcome of the Brexit negotiations to see what concrete proposals are put forward.
The government’s plans for after January 2021 would bring about significant changes, however, impacting both prospective students and UK schools. The key plank of the new proposals is that only private schools (also referred to as “independent” schools) in the UK will be permitted to sponsor EU children coming to study in the UK. As things stand currently only private schools have the ability to sponsor non-EU students on the basis of the Home Office’s Tier 4 sponsor licencing scheme. What the government is proposing is that all students wishing to study in the UK (EU and non-EU) will in the future need to be sponsored by the school they wish to attend. This means that any independent school wishing to teach EU students from 2021 will need to have a Home Office-issued sponsor licence. The rules regulating Tier 4 sponsor licences are complex and the compliance obligations substantial.
Note that EU families living in the UK before Brexit may apply for “settled status” under the Home Office’s EU Settlement Scheme, and this status has no restrictions on an EU child attending school here. The Settlement Scheme will be rolled out in full by 30 March 2019 and will operate regardless of whether the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal. However, the arrangements for EU nationals who arrive in the UK after Brexit will depend on whether the UK government secures a deal with the EU and the specific terms of that deal.
It is still not clear whether the November 2018 Withdrawal Agreement is completely off the table, despite being rejected by Parliament overwhelmingly in January. And with the government refusing to rule out a no deal Brexit the position of EU children wishing to study in the UK is still, regretfully, highly uncertain.
Gherson has extensive experience of the Tier 4 sponsor licencing regulations, student visa applications and the EU Settlement Scheme. In the event that you require any assistance with your current circumstances, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.