The UK government has introduced new immigration restrictions that will prevent family members from accompanying foreign postgraduate students on non-research courses.
As per the BBC, The announcement comes just ahead of the release of official statistics, expected to reveal a record-breaking 700,000 legal migrants this year.
In 2021, visas were granted to 135,788 dependents of foreign students, nearly nine times the figure in 2019. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak informed ministers that this change, effective from January 2024, would have a significant impact on reducing migration numbers, according to No 10.
Last week, Sunak stated that the government was considering various options to reduce migration but did not specify an acceptable level.
The Conservatives had previously pledged to bring net migration below 100,000 per year but abandoned the target before the 2019 election due to repeated failures.
Under the new policy, partners and children of postgraduate students, excluding those in designated research programs, will no longer be eligible to live in the UK during the course of study.
In 2021, dependent visas accounted for more than a fifth of all sponsored study-related visas granted, compared to 6% in 2019.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman described the surge in dependent visas as “unprecedented” and emphasized the need to tighten this route to reduce migration. Braverman stated in a parliamentary address that the new measures strike the right balance between lowering migration numbers and safeguarding the economic benefits that students bring to the UK.
Student Numbers Universities UK (UUK), the umbrella organisation for British universities, acknowledged the significant increase in dependent visas and acknowledged the resulting challenges concerning family accommodation and schooling.
Jamie Arrowsmith, the director of UUK’s international division, called for collaborative efforts between the government and universities to monitor the impact of these changes, noting that they could disproportionately affect women and students from certain countries.
According to HESA, an education data group, there were 679,970 international students in the UK in the academic year 2021/2022.
Out of these, 307,470 were undergraduates who are already unable to bring family members during their course.
There were 372,500 postgraduates, with 46,350 enrolled in research programs, primarily for PhDs, along with a small number pursuing research-based master’s degrees.
Students entering the UK with a visa must provide documentation to establish their relationship with dependents, who are required to pay a £490 visa fee.
Dependents are also obligated to contribute to the immigration health surcharge, ranging from £470 to £624 annually, towards NHS services.