First-year university students from the EU face having to pay around £800 in fees if they move to the UK after the Brexit transition period ends, after having stayed in their home country amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Individuals need to be in the UK a day before the deadline on 31 December to apply for pre-settled status. They are eligible to apply if the arrive in the UK on the last day of the year – but not after.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “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.”
However, the3million, a campaign group for EU citizens in the UK, has called for an exception to be made for this group.
“Students, through no fault of their own, face a horrible choice between ignoring Covid travel restrictions or losing out on settlement rights they thought they had by actively studying at a British university before the end of this year,” co-founder Maike Bohn told The Independent.
“Unless they can come to the UK for just one day before 31 December they will miss out on long-term residency, employment and social benefits rights.”
Ms Bohn added: “Only one plane ticket stands between them and accessing the settlement scheme and the Home Office could easily do the right thing and make an exception for this cohort.”
Mantas Gudelis, a University of Edinburgh student who started his degree from his home in Lithuania in September, told The Guardian: “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.
He added: “The system should allow us to come because this is not our fault.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The government has undertaken extensive engagement work to make sure EEA and Swiss students understand what action they need to take in order to secure their right to be in the UK, and we are proud that there have already been 4.2million applications to the EU Settlement Scheme.
“Our new points based immigration system will benefit the whole of the UK, prioritising the skills people have to offer, rather than where their passport is issued.”
A Universities UK (UUK) spokesperson said: “All universities are working closely with the Home Office to ensure that currently enrolled EU students are aware of UK requirements for obtaining pre-settled status, and UUK has issued guidance to universities on the latest immigration rule changes.”