5th July 2021
How are UK Boarding schools coping with the increased Visa burden post Brexit?
By Patricia Moores

How are UK Boarding schools coping with the increased Visa burden post Brexit?

For many years, UK boarding schools have welcomed pupils from all over the world and they have appreciated the cultural richness these pupils bring to their schools and colleges. There have always been restrictions and Visa application demands for non-EEA citizens but Brexit has now added an extra layer of complication for schools hoping to recruit pupils from the European Union.

From 01 January 2021, the Tier 4 Student Visa, now called the Child Student and Student Visa, became a requirement for EEA and non-EEA nationals, making this a global application system.  The management and responsibility for Visa acquisition can be a daunting task for schools as it requires in-depth understanding of all aspects of the process and immigration rules and compliance requirements and the additional demands post Brexit is likely to put a significant extra burden on Admissions Departments.  

Caroline Nixon, Director of BAISIS (British Association of Independent Schools with International Students) is keen to highlight to schools the need to understand the new rules and to ensure they keep abreast of the requirements and processes involved.  “We ran a session outlining the new system before Christmas, again at our International conference in March and we’re running a full Immigration Update day on June 10th BSA virtual one-day conference: Immigration update (boarding.org.uk)” she says.

The increased Visa workload for schools is summarised by Louise Frankel from Haberdashers’ Monmouth School; prior to Brexit, independent schools licensed to sponsor international students needed only to check the passport of EU National pupils to confirm their identity.  Assuming these pupils intend to study here for more than six months, they now require sponsorship.  Schools will need to complete all their usual procedural checks before issuing a Certificate of Acceptance of Study (CAS), as they do with all other sponsored international pupils.”

For some schools this additional responsibility is significant, as there are over 6,000 EEA pupils studying in the UK who will now need to have a Visa to continue to study here. (Source: https://www.isc.co.uk/media/5479/isc_census_2019_report.pdf Pge 15).

For some schools, outsourcing to an OISC (Office of the Immigration Services) accredited organisation could be the solution to handling an increased number of Visa applications. Connexcel is one such company; “we also offer guardianship and school placement services to international families so we understand the whole recruitment process-this does offer peace of mind to schools who use our Visa services,” says John Zhang, Founder.

Certainly, all schools recognise the reputational damage and distress to families, if Visa applications are not handled properly and result in a Visa application being declined. 

However, for other schools, keeping control of the CAS (Certificate of Acceptance of Studies) process is important as ultimately schools are the Tier 4 Visa sponsors and the buck stops with them. 


As Head of Boarding at Pangbourne College, Tom Cheney says; “at Pangbourne, we are implementing new procedures to ensure that our Visa process is robust and builds confidence in our applicants and our international boarding community. Being a small school, we will manage these ourselves as we find that it helps to further develop our relationships with agents, guardians and families. This is key to our personal approach.”


Also, as Remco Weeda from Scarborough College, a College that is particularly reliant on European students, points out, one thing in schools’ favour was they knew for quite some time prior to January 2021, that Visa changes were coming (even if the precise details were somewhat hazy!) allowing schools to plan to recruit extra resource in admissions.


“As soon as the Child Student and Student Visa routes were announced, our Admissions Team went on different training courses to ensure we were up to speed.  Most of these courses were pragmatic and practical. The College was also fortunate that the increased workload in this area coincided with a significant increase in day and boarding numbers.  These two factors meant that we could employ another full-time experienced member of staff in the Admissions Team,” adds Remco.


Schools also report that in line with best practice many are now carrying out audits that focus not only on compliance, but also on recommended further professional development for staff members. “Our Visa-related workload is likely to increase five-fold but we are confident that we are ready for the challenge ahead,” says Remco.   

So, whilst the Visa burden may be increasing workload at schools, some institutions are seeing it as an opportunity to enhance training which may actually improve their Visa support services for overseas families. A bonus of Brexit that probably no one envisaged!



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For information about the Visa application process, please Visit-ukeducationguide.com/uk-university-applications-visa/