EU ID cards no longer accepted at British border; ELT sector reacts

Identification cards have long been used by many EU residents to enter the UK to study English in the short-term, however as of October 1, EU citizens looking to travel to the UK are no longer able to use them, and instead need to show a valid passport to enter the country.

The only exceptions to this rule are British citizens with Gibraltar identification cards, who can use them when entering the UK, or Irish citizens.

“We see it as just one more barrier to entry”

The move could end up making logistics difficult for both students and schools, according to stakeholders, with agents warning it is yet another issue with work and study programs in the UK.

“We agents, at the moment, have lost all the work and study programs, as working in the UK is now much more difficult,” said Paolo Barilari, vice president of Italian Association of Language Consultants and agent at Lingue nel Mondo.

“The freedom of movement among EU countries is something so well established, and our students have really been profiting off this possibility, and so hardening conditions to enter the UK can of course have a negative impact.”

ELT schools in England have been preparing for the eventuality, but the managing director of the Wimbledon School of English has said it didn’t come without hard work.

“Although of course we are not happy about the fact that our European students may no longer use ID cards, we see it as just one more barrier to entry,” Jane Dancaster said.

“We have known for over a year that this was coming and so we and all our agents were very well prepared.”

Barilari also stated when talking to The PIE News that Italian agents had been “fully aware in the change in regulation since the beginning”, and so has been informing students in advance.

Stephan Roussounis, managing director of Bayswater Education, was clear that none of their students had been turned away at the border as yet.

“We do believe the wider policy of not accepting ID cards will have an impact of our Bayswater Summer business, that runs 10 summer camps and hopes to welcome thousands of students on university campuses next summer,” he said.

“I believe the overall impact on admissions of adults will be minimal but on juniors it could prove a significant barrier to those wishing to visit the UK for short summer courses,” Roussounis suggested.

After English UK’s campaign to keep EU ID card travel open for juniors was defeated in parliament, an extension was granted until the end of September, reinforcing that the date for all to begin using passports would be October 1.

However, the association of ELT schools is, according to Dancaster, still discussing the possibility of collective passports for EU juniors with the Home Office coming on “short study trips” to the UK.

“If that concession were to be granted, we are sure it would be welcomed by the many high school groups that visit the UK from countries such as Italy, Spain and France.

“[It] would help UK ELT organisations with our recovery from the effects of the pandemic,” she added.

While Barilari stated Italian agents had been aware of the change, SEE Learning Center Portugal’s managing director Natalia Barata said it was still too early to gauge the issue.

“We expect the demand for alternative countries such as Malta and Ireland will increase”

“Unfortunately, for our students, it is too early to assess the impact of the new ID card rules… at the moment, the impact felt is still that of the pandemic,” said Barata.

“However, we expect that after the pandemic when the number of pupils increases again, the demand for alternative countries such as Malta and Ireland will increase.”

As of yet there had not been any negative reaction regarding the ID cards, she stressed, with students only preoccupied about learning the new rules in place.

Barilari also said some students may “prefer to choose Ireland or Malta instead”, suggesting some shake-up may well be on the way.

“I still believe, though, that our students will of course also choose the UK for language courses.”

Dancaster also said the Home Office provided some very helpful “briefing notes” and that with their agents having “all the information required, students have so far had no problem at all” at the border.

“We can’t make contingencies for students getting turned away at the border, we must work to ensure our pre-arrival process reminds customers they now need a passport for visit the UK and that ID cards are no longer accepted,” Roussounis added.

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