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The Brexit transition period is set to end on December 31 with or without a deal in place with the European Union. But now EU students risk being fined £800 if they do not arrive in the country before the beginning of January.
Students who have enrolled in British universities and have been studying online during the coronavirus pandemic will have to physically move to the UK before December 31.
If not, they risk being fined hundreds of pounds in fees.
More than 150,000 students come to the UK to study from other countries in the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA).
But the Home Office has said students will not qualify for EU pre-settled status if they arrive in Britain after the end of the transition period.
This is even despite not being able to relocate due to the pandemic.
In a statement, they 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.”
This means tens of thousands of students risk having to pay £348 in application fees for a visa, as well as £470 a year in health charges.
Both of these are new post-Brexit costs.
Mantas Gudelis, 19, who started studying biochemistry at Edinburgh University, has been studying in her home in Lithuania.
He told the Guardian: “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.
“The system should allow us to come because this is not our fault.”
The Home Office rules on the Government website states students only need to provide one document dated in the last six months in order to be granted pre-settled status.
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This includes a “passport stamp confirming entry at the UK border” or a “used travel ticket confirming you entered the UK from another country”.
The Home Office added, “these documents count as evidence for one month if they have a single date on”.
It is reported this could include a short trip to the UK up to and including New Year’s Eve is enough to allow free movement rights.
They confirmed by saying: “Individuals only need to be here for a day before the deadline on December 31.
“If an individual has arrived in the UK on December 31 they will still be eligible to apply for pre-settled status.”
However, it gave no indication whether they would address the exceptional circumstances affecting EU students who arrive after the December date but had already enrolled in 2020 classes.
Brexit negotiations have been ongoing since the UK formally left the EU back in January.
However, as the end of the transition period looms closer, neither side has been able to come to any agreement.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is currently in London for crucial talks with David Frost.
Lord Frost has suggested while it is late to reach a deal, an agreement was still “possible”.
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