How will the end of free movement impact our Independent Schools? The government published the future skills-based immigration system white paper on 19 December 2018. This paper confirms that only independent schools will be able to sponsor EEA children who come to the UK for their education from 2021. The government have however now commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to look at introducing an Australian-style points-based system. The outcome of which, is of course unknown; however it is likely that if free movement ends, EEA nationals will require sponsorship.
Currently EEA nationals are able to study at state schools, whilst non EEA nationals who are coming to the UK solely to study must obtain a Tier 4 visa to do so, and can therefore only study at an independent institution. This is because state schools are not eligible to sponsor students coming to the UK.
- The Transition Period (29 March 2019 – 31 December 2020)
If an EEA national already resided in the UK prior to 31 October 2019, and the UK’s departure from Europe, they will be entitled to stay, and must register under the new settlement scheme. However, for EEA nationals who have not already moved to the UK, their rights will depend upon the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. There are two possibilities:
- If no deal is agreed, EEA nationals moving to the UK after 31 October 2019 will be entitled to come to the UK for an initial period of up to three months and will thereafter be eligible to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain.
- If there is a deal, free movement will continue until the end of the transition period.
- January 2021 and after
The White Paper states: “It is the Government’s intention that the same checks will apply to students from the EEA. All students coming to the UK under the future system will be sponsored by the institution at which they are studying, as is currently the case for non-EEA students. We recognise that this will increase the volume of students whom institutions will need to sponsor.”
This means that EEA nationals wishing to study in the UK post 2021 will need to obtain sponsorship, and therefore EEA nationals wishing to come to the UK to study will only be able to study at independent schools. Schools wishing to take EEA nationals students must therefore have a sponsorship licence.
- How can Independent Schools prepare?
Stone King is encouraging schools who sponsor international students to ensure compliance. For those schools without a sponsorship licence, we would suggest a conversation with our immigration team to discuss whether one may be needed under the new system.
Stone King’s immigration team can help with advice or support in relation to any aspect of immigration law.