Many overseas students may lose their ability to bring family members to the UK

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By Education Today

Posted on May 24, 2023


2 min read

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Under new immigration restrictions, international postgraduate students enrolled in non-research degrees will no longer be permitted to bring family members to the UK. Two days before official data are anticipated to show that legal migration has reached a record 700,000 this year, the announcement was made. Nearly nine times as many dependents of international students received visas in 2018—135,788—than they will this year.

Ministers were informed by PM Rishi Sunak that the action will help reduce migration. According to No. 10, he informed the cabinet that the modification, which will take effect in January 2024, will “significantly change the numbers.” However, as students and family members who visit the UK for less than a year are not counted, it is unclear what effect it will have on official migration levels. Last week, he said that ministers were “considering a range of options” to reduce migration, but he would not specify what amount was appropriate. Prior to the 2019 election, the Conservatives abandoned their pledge to reduce net migration to below 100,000 annually after continuously failing to do so. According to the notification, postgraduate students’ partners and kids who are not enrolled in research programmes or courses are no longer eligible to apply to live in the UK while they are taking the degree.

Last year, 135,788 visas were issued to dependents, more than seven times the 19,139 that were issued in 2020 and up from 54,486 in 2021. Since the European Economic Area (EEA) students’ study visa requirements were implemented following Brexit, these numbers have risen. Since rules were modified in 2019 to permit international students to remain in the UK for two years after graduating to hunt for jobs, applications have also increased. Going farther and possibly forbidding the dependents of all postgraduate students, including those enrolled on research courses, caused disagreement within the government. However, several ministers maintained they were based in the UK for a longer period of time and offered larger economic benefits, notably Education Secretary Gillian Keegan.