Dependants and switching restricted for students
There are some important changes to UK student visa route that are being introduced in the Statement of Changes to Immigration Rules 17 July 2023.
In a nutshell, the announced changes to student visa focus on two main topics, i.e. 1. Dependant family members will no longer be able to join their student family member in the UK unless the student visa holder is on postgraduate research programme and 2. Restrictions are introduced on switching from student visa to skilled worker and other work visas before completion of the course. The immigration rules have been amended to reflect these changes.
When the changes to Student visa start to apply
It is important to note that changes relating to dependants of student visa holders and switching from student visa to skilled worker, other sponsored work visa routes and other work visas, will come into effect at 1500 on 17 July 2023. Therefore, the UK government departed from the usual convention that changes to the Immigration Rules come into force no earlier than 21 days after their being laid in Parliament.
The changes in relation to dependants will only apply to those students starting courses from 1 January 2024, so there will be no effect on those students making applications relating to courses starting in autumn 2023.
Dependant family members no longer able to join (with some exception)
The changes to student visa route were already announced on 23 May 2023 as one of the measures to limit net migration to the UK. Those changes are now being introduced to the immigration rules by the Statement of Changes 17 July 2023. The following major change is being made to the student route in response to the Government’s commitment to reduce net migration:
• For courses that start from 1 January 2024 – Removing the right for international students to bring dependants unless they are on postgraduate courses currently designated as research programmes.
In short, if the course starts on or after 1 January 2024, for student to be able to bring dependant family the provider education institution would need to confirm the course is a PhD or other doctoral qualification, or a research-based higher degree.
According to the published Statement of Changes ““Research-based higher degree” means a postgraduate programme comprising a research component (including a requirement to produce original work) that is larger than any accompanying taught component when measured by student effort.”
Switching from student to skilled worker or other sponsored work visas restricted
The switching restrictions are introduced to ensure that students are generally not switching incountry to another visa route until they have completed their courses. At present some students abandon their courses and apply for skilled worker or other work visa before completing their studies. This is no longer permitted under the new immigration rules.
The following major change is being made to the student route:
• Removing the ability for international students to switch out of the student route into work routes before their studies have been completed (switching restrictions).
Students on courses at degree level or above will be able to apply for skilled worker, other sponsored visas or other work visas, before course completion, as long as their employment start date is not before their course completion. Those studying towards PhDs will be able to switch after 24 months’ study.
Students can only switch to work visas after completion of the course or be studying a full-time course of study leading to the award of a PhD with a higher education provider which has a track record of compliance and have completed at least 24 months of study on that course. Work visas include skilled worker and global business mobility visas and all the other work visas, including Ancestry visa, Global Talent visa, Innovator Founder, Scale Up, High Potential Individual, Minister of Religion.