LONDON — European students that have enrolled in British universities could face a hit of about £818 ($1,084) if they do not arrive in the U.K. before the end of the year.
The issue is one of the first practical implications of the U.K.'s departure from the European Union.
Some students, currently in their first year of study, have struggled to move to the U.K. due to the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting travel restrictions. As most institutions have offered their classes online, it has allowed them to remain in their home nation.
But this situation puts them at risk of having to pay more to move to the U.K. as their right to move for free expires on Dec. 31.
The U.K. stopped being a member of the EU in January but agreed to a transition period until the end of 2020. During this time, EU nationals have retained the right to freedom of movement — meaning they can move to the U.K. to work or study without the need for visas.
However, this will no longer be the case from January onward and European students moving to the U.K. after Dec. 31 will have to apply for a student visa in order to have a legal status. They will also have to pay a health care fee as part of their application.
It costs £348 to apply for a student visa from outside the U.K. and the health costs amount to £470 for every year of study.
As a result, EU students that have started their studies with U.K. institutions are being urged to journey to the U.K. in the coming weeks.
"We urge EU students enrolled in U.K. universities to familiarize themselves with the EU settlement scheme in the U.K. and with the new U.K. immigration rules, especially if they are currently following their studies remotely from another country," an EU official, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, told CNBC via email.
Students arriving in the new year will not be able to apply for the EU settlement scheme — an immigration status that allows EU nationals living in the U.K. to keep their current rights going forward, despite the U.K.'s decision to exit the EU.
The number of EU nationals choosing to study in the U.K. started dropping in 2016 — the same year that the U.K. voted to the leave the EU. In the latest academic year, this figure fell once again by 2% from 2019, data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) showed.
City University in London, where about 10% of its undergraduate and postgraduate students are from EU countries, told CNBC: "We have been able to offer online seminars where our international team can answer student questions and advise on the EU Settlement Scheme application process."
"We also regularly send targeted emails reminding students about deadlines and providing the most up-to-date information," the university said.