Immigration is important on the UK government’s agenda. UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has recently told the BBC that he was “considering a range of options” to bring down legal migration to the UK. He has been facing pressure to deliver on a 2019 Conservative manifesto commitment to bring down levels of net migration. In their 2019 manifesto, the Conservatives pledged to bring down overall numbers of migrants coming to the UK, at which time net migration levels were at 226,000.
PM told the BBC “What I would say is we’re considering a range of options to help tackle numbers of legal migration and to bring those numbers down – and we’ll talk more about that in the future,” he said.
The last published net migration figure reached 504,000. This is expected to increase by a few hundred thousand when the next net migration statistics are announced. The new report on the net migration is likely to be published sometime this week in May 2023.
In our article we focus on the student visa applicants who wish to bring their dependant family members to the UK and the probable upcoming immigration changes for this dependant visa category.
What are the reasons for increased net migration to the UK
The rise in migration has been driven by people coming to the UK from outside the EU – including 170,000 Ukrainians fleeing the war in their country and 76,000 from Hong Kong under the HK British National Overseas visa Scheme. Around 270,000 people also came to the UK to study.
Can students bring dependant family members to the UK? – current rules
If you’re an undergraduate student you’re not allowed to bring a dependant family members to the UK. However, students doing master’s and PhD programmes are currently permitted to bring their dependants. Dependants are spouse and children under 18 years of age.
According to the last available data, the figure for such dependants coming to the UK has gone up from about 20,000 visas a year to about 70,000 or 80,000. The new figures are to be released during this week in May 2023 and the net migration is expected to increase further. This is why UK government is looking for solutions to limit the numbers and the student visa and student dependant visas are the likely target.
UK immigration plan to curb the number of foreign students and dependant family members
People arriving on study visas accounted for the largest proportion of long-term immigration of non-EU nationals, at 277,000, or 39% of the total, according to the ONS.
According to the recent news, Rishi Sunak is considering curbs on foreign students taking “low quality” degrees and bringing dependents. There is no explanation what the ‘low quality’ degrees are. However, it is likely that the PHD students will still be able to bring their family members to the UK. Other postgraduate students may no longer be allowed to bring dependants. However, perhaps those from more prestigious universities and/or studying for degrees that are not ‘low quality’ will still be permitted.
Nothing has yet been confirmed by the UK government but some changes are likely to happen. Especially because the UK net migration is expected to further increase by a few hundred thousand when the new report is published in May 2023.
Speaking to reporters in Japan as his trip to the G7 summit, Rishi Sunak said he wanted to be ‘crystal clear’ with the public that the ‘numbers are too high’ and he wants to ‘bring them down’. On the other hand, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt insists that immigration is required to boost growth, adding that there had to be “a long-term plan if we’re going to bring down migration in a way that doesn’t harm the economy”.
The last published net migration figure was 504,000. New report from the Office of National Statistics is due to be published during this week in May 2023. It is expected that the net migration figure in the upcoming report will increase by a few hundred thousand.
As the net migration figures keep growing following Brexit, UK government is likely to bring changes to limit the numbers of migrants. Dependant family members of postgraduate students are the likely target. Changes to student dependants also do not seem to contradict the statements on immigration in the Spring Budget 2023. In the Spring Budget the government states that it will ensure the UK labour market has access to skills and talent from abroad where needed, to help businesses tackle immediate labour shortages and ease business visits to the UK. The changes in the student rules and especially their dependant family members are therefore very likely.