UK Announces Measures to Restrict Family Members of International Students Amid Immigration Pressure
London – The UK government has announced significant restrictions on student visa routes in a bid to reduce net migration. The new measures include limiting the ability of international students to bring family members, except for post-graduate research routes, and preventing individuals from using student visas as a backdoor entry to work in the country.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), net migration from June 2021 to June 2022 was estimated to be over 500,000. While temporary factors such as the UK’s Ukraine and Hong Kong schemes contributed to the rise, nearly half a million student visas were issued last year. The number of dependants of overseas students has also surged by 750% since 2019, reaching 136,000 people.
The government emphasized its commitment to the International Education Strategy, acknowledging the economic contribution that students bring to the UK. However, it stressed that this should not come at the expense of the government’s promise to the public to lower overall migration and prioritize highly skilled individuals who can offer the most benefit to the country.
The proposed changes to the student visa route, set to take effect from January next year, aim to align with the International Education Strategy while significantly reducing net migration. The government confirmed that the terms of the graduate route will remain unchanged.
To prevent visa system misuse, overseas students will be barred from switching from the student visa route to work routes until they complete their studies. The government also plans to review the financial requirements for students to demonstrate their ability to support themselves and their dependants in the UK. Additionally, measures will be taken to clamp down on unscrupulous international student agents who support inappropriate visa applications.
The government believes that in conjunction with the easing of temporary factors, these changes will lead to a considerable decline in net migration over the medium term. The reforms aim to strike a balance between supporting the UK economy, including its world-leading education institutions, and fulfilling the government’s commitment to reducing overall net migration.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman stated that while the UK remains a top destination for the brightest students, there has been an unprecedented rise in the number of student dependants entering the country. Braverman highlighted the importance of tightening this route to cut migration numbers, protect public services, and support the economy.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan echoed the sentiment, emphasizing that reducing the number of family members brought to the UK by students is necessary while maintaining the commitment to the International Education Strategy.
Following the UK’s departure from the EU, the government implemented a points-based immigration system to gain full control over the country’s borders. The system is designed to adapt to the needs of the economy and labor market, ensuring access to the skills and talent required by UK businesses and the NHS.
The government will continue to review its immigration policies to ensure they align with public commitments regarding net migration.