Watchdog advises students on how to protect their rights in new academic year

The Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreements (IMA), which monitors the rights of EU and EEA EFTA citizens post Brexit, is reminding EU students settled in the UK of their rights as they start university this year.

In particular, the watchdog wants students to be aware of the significance of Certificates of Application; paperwork which should be issued as soon as an EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) application is made.

While waiting for confirmation of status, this document enables citizens to exercise their rights. In the case of students this means their entitlement to equal treatment in accessing education.

Certificates of Application are likely to be needed for both admission to a university course and to secure any funding an individual may be eligible for.

Pam Everett, Operations Director for the IMA said:

“One of the IMA’s duties is to help citizens understand their rights. We can’t assume that all students will be aware of the paperwork which entitles them to exercise those rights.

“As the new university term beings, we want to reach out to EU students to ensure they know about the importance of Certificates of Application so that there are no hitches around starting courses or receiving the funding they may be entitled to.”

The IMA’s concern around students’ awareness of Certificates of Application is heightened by complaints the organisation has received around delays in the paperwork being issued.

In fact the IMA is currently carrying out an inquiry into the problem.

Pam added: “If students have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme and have not received a Certificate of Application then I would urge them to let us know via our Inquiry’s call for evidence.

“If students do have status or a Certificate of Application and are still having issues starting university or securing any funding they should be entitled to, we’d urge them to log a complaint on our website.

“If there are any systemic issues in the education system this will enable the IMA to address them as soon as possible.”

Amended Childcare Offer Legislation Welcomed by IMA

The IMA has been working with the DfE in relation to its Childcare Offer Regulations*, which allow eligible families up to 30 hours of free childcare, after identifying the legislation excluded citizens who had applied to the EU Settlement Scheme before 30th June but who had not received a final decision on their status from being eligible to apply.

Part of the IMA’s role is to monitor legislation to make sure it upholds the rights of EU and EEA EFTA citizens to live in the UK and Gibraltar, to study, to work and to raise their families as they did before Brexit.

While looking at the Childcare Offer Regulations the IMA identified that citizens who didn’t yet have a decision on their EUSS applications were specifically unable to apply for childcare. The IMA wrote to the DfE to say it believed they were breaking the terms of the Withdrawal Agreements and were considering taking legal action.

The DfE quickly responded to the IMA to say that they were already aware of the issue and that a solution had already been put in place to ensure no citizens who should be eligible to apply for the childcare offer would be disadvantaged. The DfE also agreed to amend the regulations at the earliest opportunity.

The amending legislation was made on October 20th and was laid before the UK Parliament on October 22nd.

The amending legislation does not make reference to citizens who applied to the EU Settlement Scheme after 30th June. However, the DfE have confirmed that late applicants will be able to apply for the childcare offer following the announcement from the Home Office on 6th August that those who apply late to the Scheme will have their rights protected while their application is determined.

Dr Kathryn Chamberlain, Chief Executive of the IMA said:

“We would like to thank the Department for Education for the way they dealt with us on this matter. As soon as we raised the issue with them, they confirmed they would be amending the legislation to ensure no citizens will be excluded from eligibility for the 30 hours free childcare entitlement whilst they are awaiting a decision on status under the EUSS.

“This case demonstrates how working together with public bodies ensures that resolutions can be reached quickly to ensure citizens are not being disadvantaged which is to everyone’s benefit.”

The IMA will continue to monitor the progress of this and all key legislation to ensure the rights of citizens are upheld.

The IMA encourages any citizen experiencing difficulties in exercising their rights to make them aware of this through their online portal.

*The Childcare (Early Years Provision Free of Charge) (Extended Entitlement) Regulations 2016 2016/1257

IMA calls on universities to follow latest guidance on EUSS for students

This follows reports that a number of British universities and colleges have been unclear of their obligations regarding admissions and financial support for EU citizens who reside in the UK.

A recurring issue has been around students who are waiting for their EUSS application to be decided.

These individuals continue to have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement. Following their application to the EUSS, individuals are issued with a Certificate of Application (CoA) to prove their protected status, as an interim measure and as they await the outcome of their application.

Yet despite having a CoA, a number of students have been unable to enrol on their courses as some universities and colleges fear they may in breach of their sponsor duties and risk losing their sponsor status. Some students have also experienced delays or difficulties receiving financial support as a result.

Students who applied late to the EUSS (after 30 June 2021), have been particularly affected even though their rights are protected once they have made an application, as evidenced by a CoA.

An absence of up to date government guidance has been given as an explanation for many of the problems by the higher education sector. As a result, the Home Office has issued information which is now being shared among the university community.

Information from the Home Office on how students can prove their rights/immigration status is also available.

Kate Chamberlain, IMA Chief Executive said:

“The IMA is here to ensure that EU citizens can continue to work, study and live in the UK as they did before Brexit. The issues seem to have arisen from a lack of clarity or understanding and so I would urge all those involved in university admissions and finance to carefully review the latest guidance to ensure they are clear about what citizens are entitled to.”

For all the latest guidance, please refer to the advice below:


Northern Ireland