Finding your way through the intricacies of student finances in a Brexit era can seem overwhelming, particularly for UK nationals living in the EU who dream of furthering their education in the UK. This thorough investigation aims to uncover the requirements for receiving in-country tuition fees and student financial aid for individuals holding passports who have lived abroad for substantial periods. This article seeks to unravel the process, offer clarity, and guide applicants by breaking down instructions and revealing the complexities involved.

The Impact of Brexit on the Financial Situation of British Students Living Abroad

The way Brexit has changed the rules for getting student loans in the UK has had an impact, especially on British people living overseas. First, it’s essential to grasp that student finance covers tuition fee loans and maintenance loans, critical aspects of financing one’s college education. In the past, European Union residents in the United Kingdom and British nationals residing in the EU could benefit from tuition fees at a rate similar to that of local students. The conclusion of the Brexit transition period on December 31, 2020, signified a policy change.

For British people who live elsewhere in the EU, including those with a history of mobility (such as those whose parents might have been mobile for their jobs), Brexit provided the framework that would determine eligibility for home fee status and access to student loans with three years’ residence in the EEA, Switzerland or the UK required before the start of the course.

Photo by Luca Sola/EPAThis shift has set off a wave of inquiries from British expatriates wondering if they’re still considered ‘resident’ UK taxpayers, whether time spent living in the UK previously makes a difference, exactly what counts as ‘home’ for fees and what evidence they would have to submit to prove their residency status.

What are the requirements for citizens living abroad who want to apply for student loans?


British citizens in the EU are only eligible for student finance if they have residency and historic ties with the UK. Photo by Pascale Voisin/GettyTo receive home fees and student loans; applicants have to satisfy this combination of requirements:

  • By the conclusion of the Brexit transition period on December 31, 2020, we will be living in the European Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland, or the United Kingdom.
  • To be eligible, you must have lived in the UK, Gibraltar, the EEA or Switzerland for three years before beginning the course’s academic year.

This is intended to avoid penalizing people because they live abroad but are still attached to the UK. Universities decide on fee status, while loan eligibility is administered by Student Finance England (SFE) or its equivalent bodies in the UK. So, applications are checked by the university and the financial body with detailed evidence of your residential history needed.

For families like Amandamofrom, this will involve hard evidence of their daughter’s citizenship and passport and a complete account of Lola’s residency since birth. The SFE’s request for a “breakdown” of details shows that they’re looking for brief periods in the UK, especially early childhood occurrences.

What is the ideal starting point for applicants, and what documents do they need to prepare?


Given the complexity of the eligibility criteria and the need for extensive documentation, prospective students and their families are advised to start the application process as early as possible. Upon application to the SFE, it will typically open in spring before the academic year starts, roughly around mid-March. However, specific dates can vary; the earlier you prepare everything, the better.

Applicants should gather the following documentation to support their application:

  • Evidence that you lived in the EEA, Switzerland or the UK when the Brexit transition period concluded.
  • You must have lived in the UK, Gibraltar, the EEA or Switzerland for three years before starting the course.
  • British passport or citizenship documentation.
  • Is there any proof available to confirm the time spent in the UK, like medical records, school records or bills from a UK residence?

While a lack of one type of evidence, such as a medical record, may be challenging to overcome, each case is assessed on its own merits, and the SFE assessors will require alternative evidence or another way to show an applicant is compliant with the average residence requirement.

For those in a position like Amandamofrom’s daughter, focusing on residency rather than place of residence in the UK in the three years immediately before the start of the course allows for a degree of pragmatism. It recognizes the reality of 21st-century mobile families without short-cutting the spirit of the eligibility criteria.

Where can candidates discover details and assistance?

Navigating student finance eligibility is a complex process, but plenty of guidance and help is available. Prospective students are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the Student Finance England (SFE), Student Loans Company (SLC), and their chosen university website for support and advice to help their application process go as smoothly as possible. Research early, and if in doubt, get in touch to avoid complications later.

For authoritative information and guidance on student finance eligibility and application processes, consider visiting the following links:

These websites offer many details, such as who can apply, when to submit applications, and frequently asked questions, that can help British residents living overseas understand the process.

In short, while the post-Brexit era of UK student finance presents new obstacles to British expatriates, careful planning and meeting the outlined criteria could see students securing home fee status and access to student loans. Understanding the requirements, gathering the necessary documentation and utilizing the available help are all part of navigating through a complex and confusing process, providing much-needed clarity and confidence for families.


How do British citizens living abroad determine their eligibility for student loans in the United Kingdom?

In order to qualify, British expats must have lived in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, or the UK itself, by the end of the Brexit transition period and have lived in these regions or the UK for at least three years before their course begins.

Where can students locate the form to apply for assistance?

You can find the student finance application form on the Student Finance England (SFE) website or similar platforms in regions of the UK, which are reachable, through their respective official government websites.

What paperwork do I need to submit to access student loans as a citizen living abroad?

Evidence of residency in the EEA, Switzerland or the UK at the end of the Brexit transition period (December 31 2020)Evidence of residency in the EEA, Switzerland, UK or Ireland for three years prior to the start of the courseEvidence of having British citizenshipEvidence of having a British passportTheir national ID card (foreign nationals from other EU countries who entered the UK before January 1 2021) Any other evidence of residency in the UK.

When is the ideal time for British citizens living to submit their applications for student financial aid?

Students should submit their applications for aid in the spring before the academic year begins, typically around mid March but the specific dates may change each year.

How do universities decide on the fee status of expats?

Universities determine fee status in line with residency criteria; for example, whether an applicant lives in the UK and has done so for lengthy periods prior to the start of their course and/or has familial and other contingencies that tie them to the UK, or for one fee status category, those that do not currently hold citizenship.

Who should British expats contact for information regarding their eligibility for student finance?

For inquiries regarding student finance qualifications it is advisable to reach out to Student Finance England (SFE) or the corresponding student finance authority in the UK region where the individual intends to pursue their studies.


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