The UK government recently unveiled proposed changes to international student visa norms, which involve curbs on dependant family members being able to join them during their course in Britain. Here, an INSA UK Mentor delves deeper into the announcement, what aspects it is likely to cover and the impact on Indian students considering choosing the UK as their higher education destination.
Indian students have always made a massive contribution to the UK in multiple different ways. They bring in the much-needed skills, experience and also culture which makes the already international student experience even better. Indian students have always adhered to the rules and done their best to keep up with the ever-changing rules.
Recently, further changes were announced which are set to be implemented from January 2024. I have discussed the rules and what the impact could be for Indian students considering next year’s intake and apprehensions that students coming this year might have.
The main change proposed is that overseas students will no longer be able to bring family with them except under specific circumstances and only overseas students on courses designated as research programmes, such as PhD students or research-led Master’s courses, will be able to bring dependants with them under new rules to curb net migration. This impacts mature students coming to the UK for studies.
Culturally Indians get married a bit earlier and have families earlier too. This will mean that mature students will struggle to come to the UK for studies post getting married unless they are prepared to stay away from a young family for over three years. Although, most post-graduate Master’s are for one-year the current Graduate Route visa policy doesn’t allow dependants to join the visa holder unless they are on a student visa.
Clarifications are needed for what happens for students who come in September 2023 and are eligible to bring their dependants, but if they choose to bring their dependants in 2024 will they still be allowed, or not? Also, clarification is needed for the specific exceptions to avoid confusion.
The second change proposed is the review of the maintenance requirement for students and dependants, and a crackdown on “unscrupulous” education providers “who make use of inappropriate applications to sell immigration, not education”. The crackdown on unscrupulous education providers is welcome as there are a lot of rogue operators out there. However, students and their dependants at the moment are anyway expected to show full tuition fee and living expenses before applying for the visa. It will be good to get clarity on what this means in practicality.
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The government will also remove the ability for international students to switch out of the student route and into work routes before their studies have been completed. This proposal makes the most logical sense and Indian students who come to the UK will accept this holistically. However, the policymakers should make exceptions for situations where a student secures a job and the sponsor is happy for them to join the job sooner. Then, the universities should be asked to make it possible by offering the students flexible course delivery so that they are able to make the most of the opportunity. This will not deter skilled Indian students to come to the UK as they won’t be penalised.
These changes impact all Indians and other overseas students considering the UK for their studies as this will definitely make them look at other countries where they are allowed to have a better study experience. Also, as mentioned earlier, the policymakers need to consider the impact this could have on the economy as this could alienate students considering UK as the study destination.
Finally, on behalf of INSA UK, I would urge Home Secretary Suella Braverman and team to consider the timing of implementation and the impact this could have. There will be many more questions which will need to be considered. We would be more than happy to help guide with further thoughts and suggestions.
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by Sohel Modi
Sohel Modi is a Mentor with the Indian National Students’ Association (INSA) UK. He works for Virgin Media O2 in Advertising Technology Operations.