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Majority of international students now banned from bringing family members to UK

Majority of international students now banned from bringing family members to UK

International students starting courses at British universities this month will no longer be able to bring family members on all but postgraduate research courses and courses with government-funded scholarships as the UK government’s new visa rules came into effect in the New Year.

Indians currently form the largest cohort of international students granted study visas for higher education institutions in Britain. But under the Home Office said the changes, first announced by former home secretary Suella Braverman in May 2023, a majority of them will not be joined by their close family members.

The Home Office says the tighter norms are designed as a clampdown on people using the student visa as a backdoor route to work in the UK and will see an estimated 140,000 fewer people come to the UK. 

Home Secretary James Cleverly said: "This government is delivering on its commitment to the British public to cut migration. We have set out a tough plan to rapidly bring numbers down, control our borders and prevent people from manipulating our immigration system, which will come into force throughout this year.

"Today, a major part of that plan comes into effect, ending the unreasonable practice of overseas students bringing their family members to the UK. This will see migration falling rapidly by the tens of thousands and contribute to our overall strategy to prevent 300,000 people from coming to the UK."

The UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that in the year ending September 2023, 152,980 visas were issued to dependants of students, a massive rise from the 14,839 in the year ending September 2019.

UK Minister for Legal Migration and the Border Tom Pursglove noted: “Our world-leading universities rightly attract some of the brightest students from around the world to the UK. But we have seen a surge in the number of dependants being brought by students, which is contributing to unsustainable levels of migration.

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“We are completely committed to seeing a decisive cut in migration. The action implemented today to restrict bringing dependants on the student visa route allows us to better protect our public services, while supporting the economy by allowing the students who contribute the most to keep coming here. This is part of a series of measures which together will see 300,000 fewer people coming to the UK compared to last year.”

The Home Office said the changes to student visas strike the “right balance” to continue to preserve the attractiveness of the UK’s world-leading higher education sector, while removing the ability for institutions to undermine the UK’s reputation by “selling immigration not education”.

Meanwhile, the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) will be commissioned to review the Graduate route or post-study work visa. In the student visa category, Indian nationals represent the largest group of students granted leave to remain on this route, making up 43 per cent of grants. Student groups have expressed widespread concerns over this proposed review of the route, which allows for post-study work experience and is the topmost factor behind students from India choosing UK universities.

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“This package of measures, taken in addition with the measures on student dependants, means that around 300,000 people who came to the UK last year would not be able to in the future – the largest reduction ever. This is a tough but fair approach to bring net migration down to sustainable levels as soon as possible, while ensuring those affected have ample time to prepare for upcoming changes – with the package being introduced gradually throughout early 2024,” the Home Office added. 

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