Important changes to student visa and student dependant visa from January 2024
The anticipated changes to Student visa and their dependant family member visas are announced. In our most recent blog published a few days ago, we spoke about upcoming changes to the UK student visa route. The changes have now been announced by the Home Office on 23rd May 2023 in a short press release. The new rules are due to come into effect for students starting courses in January 2024.
What is the purpose of the changes to student visa route?
According to the Home Office press release ‘New government restrictions to student visa routes will substantially cut net migration by restricting the ability for international students to bring family members on all but post-graduate research routes and banning people from using a student visa as a backdoor route to work in the UK.’
The ONS estimated that net migration was over 500,000 from June 2021 to June 2022. Last year almost half a million student visas were issued while the number of dependants of overseas students has increased by 750% since 2019, to 136,000 people.
UK government is looking for solutions to limit the net migration numbers and therefore changes to student visa route.
Current immigration rules – can students bring dependant family members to the UK?
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.
Student visa holders currently can also switch to work visa from inside the UK even if they do not complete their studies.
What are the changes to student visa route announced in May 2023
Home Office press release on 23rd May 2023 states that the new rules will be restricting the ability for international students to bring family members on all but post-graduate research routes and banning people from using a student visa as a backdoor route to work in the UK.
To prevent misuse of the visa system, overseas students will be stopped from switching from the student visa route into work routes until their studies have been completed.
The government will also review the funds students must have to demonstrate they can look after themselves and their dependants in the UK. You may read more on the current requirements on Gov UK website here.
In addition in their press release Home Office also announced that they ‘will clamp down on unscrupulous international student agents who may be supporting inappropriate applications.’
Are there going to be any exceptions in the new rules for students?
According to the press release, UK government will work with the higher education sector to explore alternative options to ensure the brightest and best students can continue to bring dependents when they study at the UK’s world-leading universities.
Home Office further stated that ‘the changes to student visas strike the right balance in supporting the UK economy, including world-leading education institutions, and upholding the government’s commitment to reducing overall net migration.’
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.
The net migration figures keep growing following Brexit; therefore it is not unexpected that UK government is looking to decrease the figures and therefore announced changes to UK student visa route. Home Office already indicated their intentions during the last year but the official confirmation was published only yesterday, on 23rd May 2023.The recent Home Office press release is quite general in nature and as usual we need to wait for the updated immigration rules and updated Home Office guidance for the details.