The new year will bring more changes as we adapt to life with the pandemic. In addition, the UK’s relationship with the EU has entered a new phase. You may be wondering ‘if I come to the UK to study will I need a Student Visa in 2021?’ The answer depends on your status, so here is an outline of the changes you can expect.

Having now left the European Union most students from outside the UK will be treated differently for immigration purposes. It is important that you follow the correct procedures if you want to study in the UK from the new year.

If you plan to start a Masters course in January or February then it is likely that your UK university has already offered you advice about your visa status. Student Admissions teams are supporting all prospective students, and many universities have excellent advice available for you on their websites.

EU Settlement Scheme

The EU settlement scheme was designed to offer EU, non-EU EEA and Swiss citizens and their eligible family members living in the UK the opportunity to protect their residence in the UK after the 31st December 2020.

Settled or pre-settled status

Your eligibility for the EU Settlement Scheme is based on the length of time you have been living in the UK. To obtain settled status you will need to have lived continuously in the UK for five years. If you have less than five years’ continuous residence at the point you apply, you will be eligible for pre-settled status. You can then apply for settled status after you have lived in the UK continuously for five years.

With settled or pre-settled status: –

  • You will have the same access as you currently do to healthcare, pensions and other benefits in the UK,
  • You will be able to travel to and from the UK using a valid passport or (at least until 31 December 2025) a valid national identity card, and
  • Close family members living overseas will still be able to join you here after the end of the implementation period, where the relationship existed on or before 31 December 2020 and continues to exist when the person wishes to come to the UK. Future children are also protected.

The new points-based Student Visa

If you plan to come to the UK to study in 2021 then you will need a Student Visa. Overseas Students looking to study in the UK will be needing to apply for the new Student Visa if they are not a resident here under the EU Settlement Scheme.

If you are an international student coming to study in the UK from January 2021 (including if you’re from the EU, EEA and Switzerland), you will need a Student visa before you arrive. This applies to you if you began your course remotely online in autumn 2020.

This new Student Visa will replace the current Tier 4 (General) visa. For EEA nationals, the new Student route will take effect for applications made in the UK on or after 1 January 2021.

Fees for the new Student Visa fees are: –

  • £348 to apply for a Student visa from outside the UK
  • £475 to extend or switch to a Student visa from inside the UK

The earliest you can apply is 3 months before your course starts and you’ll usually get a decision within 8 weeks. You must apply before your current visa expires. Your new course must begin within 28 days of your current visa expiring.

If you currently have a Tier 4 (General) visa, this will continue until the expiry date. At that point, if needed, you can apply for another student visa through this new Student visa route.

Application window

Students applying under the new Student route from outside the UK, now have up to 6 months to do so prior to the start of their course rather than 3 months.

If you apply for your visa under the new Student Route there is no limit for time spent studying with Student permission at postgraduate level (RQF level 7) and above.

Working after your studies

There are some key dates for current students who want to work in the UK after their studies. The headlines are:

  • The changeover from Tier 2 (General) to the new Skilled Worker route includes some changes, mostly beneficial and helpful for students who wish to work after studies.
  • 31 December 2020 is the deadline for EEA and Swiss nationals to move to the UK under their right of free movement under EU law. They can secure their ongoing right to work by applying under the Brexit – EU Settlement Scheme by the deadline of 30 June 2021. Those who arrive on or after 1 January 2021 will be subject to immigration control and will need visas for study and work
  • In summer 2021 the new 2-year Graduate immigration route is due to open. Students who are due to graduate in 2021 and currently distance learning outside the UK due to the pandemic will need to return to the UK for their last semester, deadline 6 April 2021, in order to be eligible under the Graduate route.
  • The current Doctorate Extension Scheme is expected to close and merge with the Graduate route. PhD graduates will get 3 years’ permission under the Graduate route, not two years.