The United Kingdom has announced a crackdown on overseas students bringing family members to the UK as part of a push to reduce net migration.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who announced this, said all foreign students (apart from those on postgraduate research programmes), will be banned from bringing their dependants from January 2024.
Ms Braverman said there had been an “unexpected” spike in the number of dependants – saying the economic benefits brought by students could “not be at the expense” of the Tory promise to cut immigration.
Rishi Sunak’s government is also stopping international students switching from the student visa route to work routes before their studies have been completed.
Maintenance requirements for students and their dependants will also be pulled, and Ms Braverman has vowed to clamp down on “unscrupulous education agents who may be supporting inappropriate applications to sell immigration not education”.
Around 136,000 visas were granted to dependants of sponsored students in the year ending December 2022, the government said – an eight-fold increase from 16,000 in 2019.
Despite the crackdown, Ms Braverman insisted that the government would work with universities to deliver an “alternative approach” to make sure “the best and the brightest students can bring dependants”.
Mr Sunak and Ms Braverman are under huge pressure from Tory MPs for plans to cut net migration, with official annual figures to be published this week expected to show it has reached at least 700,000.
The PM told the cabinet on Tuesday that the latest moves “would make a significant difference to the numbers”. Ms Braverman said it struck “the right balance between acting decisively on tackling net migration and protecting the economic benefits that students can bring”.
The new restrictions also declare that, “International students will no longer be able to switch out of the student visa route into work before their studies have been completed”, adding that steps will be taken to clamp down on “unscrupulous education agents who may be supporting inappropriate applications to sell immigration, not education”
Currently, students who come to study in the UK from abroad can apply to bring dependents, including their partners or children with them to live in the country while they study, with some allowed to stay for two years after the course finishes.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told his Cabinet on Tuesday that the number of visas issued to dependents joining those studying at universities in the UK had increased eight-fold from 16,000 in 2019 to 136,000 in 2022.