Thousands of British students are facing post-Brexit visa obstacles, leaving many unable to complete their language courses or take up internships in the EU.
Some have delayed studying abroad because of visa delays – but hundreds of undergraduates taking modern foreign language courses may miss out on a crucial part of their degree.
In a sign of the severity of the problem, the UK government has asked Spain to establish a fast-track visa process for British students seeking to study and work there, after the Spanish embassy in London was overwhelmed by applications.
But Spanish authorities have so far rebuffed the request, saying students should ensure they have the right documents to avoid hold-ups.
Natasha Kerr, a modern languages student at Bristol, is waiting to hear if her visa application has been successful after a long wait for an interview at the Spanish consulate in London.
“There was a lot [to] figure out. Bristol said: ‘We can’t give you advice, we don’t know,’” she told the Guardian. “There was a lot of miscommunication and the university reached out to the consulate but they didn’t get any response and there wasn’t a lot they could do.”
Kerr said the cost of applying for a visa was about £700 – which included getting two documents legalised and translated and obtaining a criminal records police certificate. “It was a lot more than I was expecting,” she said.
James Illingworth, a coordinator for the University Council of Modern Languages, said university administrators were struggling with “seemingly never-ending requirements” for visas.
“Whether students are granted a visa or not seems at the moment to be somewhat random, with students going on similar placements granted visas, while their friends are not.
“The extensive waiting lists and difficulties obtaining documents from host departments in Spain is causing significant delays and anxiety for students,” he told the newspaper.
A UK government spokesperson said:“We have raised the issue with the Spanish government, and are supporting Universities UK International.”
Supply chain crisis
Meanwhile pub chain JD Wetherspoon has apologised to customers after its beer supplies became the latest casualty of the UK’s supply chain crunch.
The hospitality giant confirmed that it has seen supplies of Carling and Coors beer hit by the disruption, with some pubs not receiving deliveries.
Lorry driver and factory staff shortages attributed to Brexit employment rules and the pandemic have impacted supplies at rival firms including McDonald’s, Nando’s and KFC in recent weeks.