UK Government Tightens Rules For International Students: No More Family Members Starting 2024

UK Government Tightens Rules For International Students: No More Family Members Starting 2024

From January 2024, the UK will impose new restrictions on international students bringing dependants, as part of a broader strategy to manage immigration and the student visa system.

In a bid to curb immigration, the UK government has announced that from January 2024, international students will face restrictions on bringing dependants unless enrolled in designated research programmes.

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The government also plans to disallow students from transitioning from student visas to work visas before completing their studies. These changes come as part of a broader strategy to reduce net migration and regulate the student visa system.

“International students who come to the UK will no longer be able to bring family with them except under specific circumstances,” the government has announced.

The government’s move is aimed at managing an “unexpected rise” in the number of dependants accompanying international students, as revealed by Home Secretary Suella Braverman. In 2022, 486,000 student visas were issued, a significant increase from 269,000 in 2019. The number of student visas issued to dependants in the same year stood at 136,000, an eightfold increase from 16,000 in 2019.

Braverman explained the new strategy by stating:

“This package strikes the right balance between acting decisively on tackling net migration and protecting the economic benefits that students can bring to the UK.”

The government also intends to review the maintenance requirements for students and their dependants and crack down on unscrupulous education agents misusing the visa system.

Impact on the Education Sector

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan emphasized the importance of attracting top international students for the health of the UK’s universities and overall economy. She also acknowledged the rise in student dependants and the necessity of addressing this issue.

“The number of family members being brought to the UK by students has risen significantly,” Keegan noted.

While the changes have sparked debates within the cabinet, Keegan maintained the government’s commitment to the international education strategy, which aims to continually enrich the UK’s education sector.

Mixed Responses to the Changes

The move, however, has elicited diverse reactions from key players in the education sector. Jamie Arrowsmith, Director of Universities UK International, expressed concerns about the changes’ potential disproportionate impact on women and students from certain countries. He urged the government to collaborate with the sector to monitor the impact on these groups.

“We therefore urge the government to work with the sector to limit and monitor the impact on particular groups of students,” Arrowsmith said.

Meanwhile, Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group of universities, voiced worries about the potential negative implications on universities’ plans to diversify their student intakes. However, he welcomed the government’s commitment to the graduate route and the concession for postgraduate research students to bring dependants.

Future Outlook

Given the current immigration scenario, the government hopes to see net migration fall to pre-pandemic levels in the medium term with the introduction of these changes. However, it remains to be seen how these changes will unfold and what their true impact will be on international students and the UK’s education sector.

As the policy adjustments continue to unfold, it’s crucial for prospective international students and their dependants to keep abreast of these changes and plan their educational journey accordingly.

Source: Sky News

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