The Home Office’s COVID-19 guidance for overseas students and education providers has been updated to confirm that the “distance learning concession will be in place for the duration of the 2020-21 academic year, ending on 27 September 2021”.
Overseas students will still be able to obtain sponsorship to commence a course of study via distance or blended learning as long as they “intend to transition to face-to-face learning from 27 September 2021”.
The guidance further states that new international students who have not yet applied for permission to enter the UK as a Student or Child Student, and who intend to study on a course which will be wholly completed overseas via distance learning, will not be required to travel to the UK and will not therefore need to obtain a visa. They will be able to undertake the relevant distance learning course from abroad.
New international students that do intend to travel to the UK to undertake face-to-face learning are still required to obtain a Certificate of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) and must commence face-to-face studies by 27 September 2021. The course start date on the CAS can be either the start date on which the course commences by distance learning or the date on which the face-to-face learning will begin. This is a decision to be made by the sponsoring institution.
If a student does not engage with their distance learning for more than 30 days, whether they are based abroad or in the UK, the sponsoring institution is obliged to withdraw the sponsorship. Therefore, it remains crucial for students to continue to engage with their course of study, as would be expected if they were attending face-to-face tuition.
The deadline to end distance learning may present an issue for those students who are enrolled on a course of study but who may not be able to enter the UK by 27 September 2021 due to COVID-19. Flight restrictions and border closures remain prevalent, and many countries continue to face severe difficulties due to the pandemic. In light of this, it is unclear whether sponsoring institutions will be able to transition those students who are unable to enter the UK by 27 September 2021 to a distance learning course whilst still retaining their Student Visa (in case they are able to thereafter travel to the UK), in light of the fact that sponsored students are “not normally permitted to undertake distance learning courses”. We expect further clarification on this point in due course.
Gherson has extensive experience with Student and Child Student visa applications. If you are a prospective student, or if your studies have been disrupted by COVID-19, please do contact us for advice, send us an: e-mail, or alternatively, follow us on Twitter to stay up to date.
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.
Immigration Consultant and Trainee Solicitor in our Private Client Department