UK Student Visa Ban on Bringing Dependants Comes Into Effect

| January 4, 2024
UK Student Visa Ban on Bringing Dependants Comes Into Effect

The British government has started implementing student visa restrictions to cut migration and prevent abuse of the immigration system.

Starting January 2024, most international students enrolling at universities in the United Kingdom (UK) will not be allowed to bring dependants.

Only students enrolled in postgraduate research courses and courses with government-funded scholarships will be allowed to bring their family members to the UK.

“This government is delivering on its commitment to the British public to cut migration. We have set out a tough plan to rapidly bring numbers down, control our borders, and prevent people from manipulating our immigration system, which will come into force throughout this year,” UK Home Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement.

He said the new policy ended “the unreasonable practice of overseas students bringing their family members to the UK.”

The stricter rule on student visa dependants was announced in May 2023.

The goal was to prevent individuals from using student visas as a means to work in the country.

This is expected to result in an estimated 140,000 fewer individuals coming to the UK.

“This will see migration falling rapidly by the tens of thousands and contribute to our overall strategy to prevent 300,000 people from coming to the UK,” Cleverly added. 

The UK’s world-leading higher education

The UK government remains dedicated to the International Education Strategy. It stresses the positive impact of international students on the country’s economy.

The new student visa policy aims to balance keeping the UK top-tier education enticing to students and preventing institutions from prioritizing immigration over education.

Firstly, this involves managing migration levels. Simultaneously, it also ensures that those coming to the UK are highly skilled and contribute significantly to the economy.

Universities and the government will also find alternative ways to attract top talent to the UK’s leading universities.

These may pave the way for students to continue to bring dependants while reducing net migration.

More immigration policy changes in 2024 

In December 2023, the UK Home Office introduced more significant immigration policy changes to decrease legal migration to sustainable levels. 

These measures include prohibiting overseas health and care workers from bringing dependants and mandating that care firms in England be regulated for visa sponsorship.

The skilled worker route will see a nearly 50 percent raise in salary thresholds to £38,700. 

This amount will also apply to the minimum income requirement of family visa applicants or UK residents sponsoring family members.

However, the increase in the family visa income threshold requirement will be in phases. It will only come into full effect by Spring 2025.

The government is also eliminating the 20 percent salary discount for shortage occupations and revising the Shortage Occupation List. 

The changes the Home Office announced also include assessing the graduate visa route.

All these measures will be gradually introduced throughout early 2024.

Along with the change affecting student dependants, these policy changes are expected to result in the most substantial yet fair approach to reducing net migration.

UK’s net migration statistics

Official figures reveal an alarming 930% rise in the number of dependant visas granted since 2019. 

Data collected by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that by September 2023, a total of 152,980 visas were issued to the dependants of students. 

This represents a significant surge from just 14,839 visas granted in September 2019.

The ONS also estimated that net migration was 672,000 from June 2022 to June 2023.

A large number of people entering the UK now come from countries outside the European Union (EU). 

Among the 968,000 migrants from non-EU countries, individuals from India, Nigeria, and China are the most common. 

Many migrants come to the UK for higher education, accounting for 39 percent. Individuals coming to work in the health and social care sector account for 33 percent of the country.

On the other hand, those arriving via humanitarian routes from Ukraine and Hong Kong decreased from 19 percent to 9 percent.

The UK’s net migration numbers from June 2022 to June 2023 also revealed a considerable uptick in the number of visas for dependants of health and social care workers.