Changes to visa rules have been implemented in the UK, being in place from 1 January 2024 onwards.
The new rules stipulate that unless they are enrolled in a PhD or postgraduate research programme, any international students starting their courses will be forbidden from bringing their partner or children to the United Kingdom .
For students whose courses started before this date, dependant visas will still be available as long as the student’s visa remains valid. Family members of students who switch to a UK Graduate visa upon their graduation can still apply for a dependant visa, as long as they have been living with the student as dependants whilst they have been studying.
Government ministers say that the changes will reduce immigration by 140,000 a year.
“Today, a major part of that plan comes into effect, ending the unreasonable practice of overseas students bringing their families to the UK”
James Cleverly, Home Secretary
When the new rules were under debate in May 2023, Robert Jenrick, the Minister of State for Immigration at the time, noted that the number of visas issued for student dependants had risen to 136,000, eight and a half times higher than the 16,000 issued in 2019. In September 2023, the Office for National Statistics confirmed that this number had risen to 152,980.
“Today, a major part of that plan comes into effect, ending the unreasonable practice of overseas students bringing their families to the UK,” said Home Secretary James Cleverly, with Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, stating that the opposition party supported these changes.
There has been considerable anger at the changes
The change is one of five changes made by the Conservatives in an attempt to deliver the biggest reduction in net migration ever recorded, with other changes including limiting visas to carers, raising the minimum income for family visas to £29,000, and increasing the salary needed to get visas by 48%.
There has been considerable anger at the changes, with Nick Hillman, the Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, saying that changing the rules may make the UK higher education sector less competitive.
Public opinion, meanwhile, seems to be in favour of either maintaining or increasing levels of student migration, with research published by the University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory finding that 32% of Britons want to make it easier for students to immigrate to the UK, in contrast to the 18% of Britons who believe it should be harder. According to the Observatory, the general public views student immigration more favourably than immigration by refugees, EU nationals, and non-British partners of British citizens.