Sterling Law has successfully challenged a decision by Student Finance England to refuse a student loan to a settled non-EU national because it was not believed that he met the lawful residence requirements.
To meet the requirements for a student loan, the student needs to meet certain residence requirements, which normally include having been lawfully resident in the UK for three years prior to the start of the academic year. Our client, a non-EU national, had received Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme and been lawfully resident since his arrival to the UK as a child. His immigration history was not without difficulties, having been incorrectly refused EEA Residence Cards more than once in the past. However, Sterling Law has been acting in his case for many years and always successfully challenged the Home Office’s unlawful decisions before successfully obtaining his Settled Status.
When our client applied for a student loan, Student Finance England requested his immigration history from the Home Office as part of their standard procedure. Unfortunately, the Home Office provided information which misled Student Finance England to believe that our client had been an overstayer during the three-year qualifying period. Sterling Law appealed the Student Finance decision and successfully persuaded them to reconsider the decision. Our tactic was to approach the Home Office at the same time and to request that Student Finance be corrected in their mistaken view of our client’s immigration history. At first, we were met with the obstacles of Student Finance’s misunderstanding of the immigration rules and the Home Office’s refusal to accept responsibility. However, our persistence paid off and the appeal has been allowed by Student Finance England, who agreed to urgently process our client’s student loan for the academic year 2019/2020.
This case exposes a flaw in the student loan system which affects migrants disproportionately – that Student Finance England relies on limited information from the Home Office about an applicant’s immigration history. This personal data can be incomplete or misleading, or it could be misunderstood by Student Finance’s staff who are not familiar with the immigration system. This system causes incorrect student loan decisions where a person has a complex immigration history with any refusals in the past, particularly where they have been the family member of an EEA national. The ultimate successful result is very welcome and shows that any incorrect student loan decision is worth challenging.