- Beginning in January 2024, the UK government will forbid international students from bringing dependents along, unless they are enrolled in a research based postgraduate program.
- The Graduate Route will not be impacted by the new immigration limitations; under this route, qualifying students will continue to be granted 2-3 years of residency in the UK.
- Students will not be permitted to switch to the Skilled Worker Route until they complete their programme
African students and other international students will no longer be allowed to bring dependents to the UK after January 2024 unless they are enrolled in a postgraduate research program such as a PhD or master’s program. Dependents include children under the age of 18, spouses, and elderly parents who require long-term care.
The move is an attempt by the UK government to reduce net migration after the country recorded the highest numbers in 2021 and 2022. Net migration topped 500,000 between June 2021 and June 2022, more than double the amount in 2019. The Home Office reported that “the number of dependents of overseas students has increased by 750% since 2019 to 136,000 people.”
Gillian Keegan, the secretary of education, stated that “students are now bringing more family members to the UK than ever before. It is appropriate that we are acting to lower this figure while upholding our commitment to our international education strategy, which continues to bolster the UK’s educational landscape and significantly boost the national economy.”
According to Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who is a relative hardliner on the need to lower immigration to the UK, “We expect this new policy to have a tangible impact on net migration and will allow us to better protect our public services while supporting the economy by allowing the students who contribute the most to keep coming here.”
The home office also revealed that a skilled worker visa would no longer be available to international students before they had finished their education. The law is designed to deter international students from choosing the UK primarily for employment opportunities rather than academic pursuits.
More and more international students were choosing the skilled worker option since it provided a less expensive and quicker track to full-time employment in the UK. On the other side, before accessing the job market, students who choose the graduate route must pay exorbitant course fees and maintenance for the duration of their program.
Additionally, Ms. Braverman stated that overseas students who are permitted to bring dependents will still have to demonstrate their ability to “look after themselves and their dependents.”
One-year Master’s Students
All overseas undergraduate students will be prohibited from bringing dependents, but they are not the only ones who will be affected. Additionally impacted will be those coming for one-year master’s programs. This move will affect mostly Indian and Nigerian students, who have been responsible for the rise in international enrollments in the UK.
The Graduate Route
Last year, there was worry in the foreign education community that the Home Office would shorten the Graduate Route’s two-year maximum stay in the UK to just six months. International students will still be allowed to stay for two years through the Graduate Route (three years for doctoral/PhD students), notwithstanding the anticipated drop.
Clampdown on agents
The government has additionally stated that it will clamp down on unscrupulous international student agents who may be supporting inappropriate applications. Agents will need to differentiate themselves from the competition by earning professional credentials, building a solid portfolio of accomplishments, and maintaining a high standard of ethics.
International students contribute significantly to the UK’s economy, but some sections of the public are growing increasingly concerned about the record-breaking rate of immigration and what it implies for jobs, housing, and the fabric of British society. The net migration is now at an all-time high because of people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine as well as international students and their dependents.
Only 21% of Britons polled this year said they wanted to see fewer overseas students in the nation, but a much larger percentage (42%) wanted immigration to be restricted. Even though the impact of less dependent overseas students will almost certainly be “tangible,” it will also probably be harder for UK colleges to recruit international students in the near future.