UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman recently announced some new rules for international students in UK especially immigration rules concerning the dependant visa requirements. It was stated that international students coming to UK will no longer be able to bring dependants on student visa unless they are enrolled in research-based postgraduate programmes (mostly Phd programmes). This change will be applicable to all the students coming to study in UK from January 2024. In an increasingly globalised world, these changes to the UK’s student visa routes may have significant implications for potential students considering UK as their study abroad destination.
This is a notable shift from the previous policy which granted all postgraduate students the immigration rights to bring dependants via study visa route. Now only research-oriented postgraduate students are allowed to do so. The scope of research-oriented programmes is yet to be determined.
Quoting all time high net immigration of 500,000 from June 2021 to June 2022 as per Office for National Statistics, Braverman noted that this policy has been previously “abused to immigrate into the country via enrolling on courses at low-ranking universities”. The goal is to discourage people from using student visa as a back route to work in the UK. A record high 136,000 permits were issued to dependants of international students since 2019 and the UK government finds this increase alarming in order to protect public service. Hence, the government felt the need to introduce this change.
Additional to this change, unlike before international students in UK will also be restricted when switching from student visa to skilled worker visa. Now international students on a student visa can only switch to skilled worker route upon successful graduation. And then they can apply for dependant visa for their family members upon fulfilling additional requirements (sufficient resources to support etc.). This change is again aimed to ensure that the UK attracts only the brightest and the best students who are not looking to abuse the student visa route to merely immigrate into the country.
These changes will likely have an impact on the decisions of potential international students when considering UK as their study abroad destination. For those who have families, the inability to bring dependants may be a critical factor in deciding whether or not to pursue their “study in UK” dreams. However, these changes does not affect those planning to enrol on research-oriented postgraduate programmes. Moreover, the UK being home to world’s best universities and leading research centres still remains an attractive factor when it comes to international students planning to study abroad and considering UK as the target destination.
UK government through its International Education Strategy aims to host 600,000 international students each year by 2030. The new changes can however slow down the progress for achieving this target. As mentioned above these changes can play a crucial role in international students’ decision to choose UK as their study destination. However, government officials ensured that supporting international students remain their top priority. In her announcement, Home Secretary Suella Braverman maintained that “The UK is a top destination for the brightest students to learn at some of the best universities in the world” and that the UK government remains committed to its International Education Strategy. Education Secretary Gilian Keegan further stated, “Attracting the top students from around the world isn’t just good for our universities – it’s essential for our economy and building vital global relationships.” And indicated that attracting international students coming to study in UK via Student visa route stays a top priority to enable the world’s brightest and the best students “make a significant contribution to the wider economy”
These changes highlight the importance of staying informed about immigration policies in your country of choice for study abroad experience. It is crucial to understand the rules and regulations that will affect you and your family’s future circumstances. For those who will be affected by this change, it may be worth exploring other visa routes that may allow your dependants to join you in the UK. One such route is applying for dependant visa on skilled-worker visa after having successfully graduated from your studies. Keep checking our blogs for latest updates and suggestions on the topic.