UK to Block Dependants for International Students
The UK government are set to prevent the accompaniment of dependants for international students from the start of January 2024. This is unless the student is in a postgraduate programme with a research focus. The new rules were made by the government in an effort to curb net migration.
Why is the UK Blocking Dependants for International Students?
The UK government is currently looking to enforce stricter restrictions on who can come into the country. The restrictions come as part of an effort to bring down the net migration total.
Net migration is the difference between the number of people who move into the UK compared to the number that leaves in a set period. Those staying in the UK must have the intention of staying 12 months or more.
In 2022, 1,163,000 people came to the UK expecting to stay for at least a year. An estimated 556,000 departed, resulting in net migration standing at 606,000.
This figure is a record high, and an increase of 118,000 in 2021.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS), said the rise was driven by non-EU migrants coming to the UK. This could either be for work, study or humanitarian reasons.
In October 2022, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said her “ultimate aspiration” was to reduce net migration to the UK to the “tens of thousands”.
What are the New Rules on Dependants for International Students?
As of January 2024, international students will not be permitted to bring dependants with them while studying in the UK. Dependants include children under the age of 18, spouses or civil partners, and elderly parents that need long-term care.
The exception to this rule is if they are studying a postgraduate, research course such as a PhD or research-based master’s programme. International students that are in post-graduate courses that are not designated as research-oriented will not be allowed to bring dependants.
In 2022, the Home Office reported that “almost half a million student visas were issued while the number of dependants of overseas students has increased by 750% since 2019, to 136,000 people.”
Additionally, under the new rules, students must stay student route until programmes are completed. This means that students will no longer be able to obtain a Skilled Worker Visa before their studies have been completed. The government hopes this change to this rule discourages international students from choosing the UK because they want to work there rather than study. Currently, the Skilled Worker route provides a cheaper and faster pathway to the UK. The Graduate Route can be move expensive and students must pay maintenance for the duration for their course before entering the jobs market.
The government is taking measures to prevent the Skilled Worker Route from being exploited by individuals posing as genuine students who are solely interested in finding employment in the UK.
The Rules for One-Year Master’s Students
Under the new rules, undergraduate students will not be allowed to bring dependants to the UK. However, one-year master’s programmes are also to be affected. The one-year master’s programme is very popular amongst those looking to drive down the fees of studying abroad and it’s feared that not only will these individuals suffer but by dissuading these students, the revenue of UK universities will be affected.
Will the New Rules Affect the Graduate Route?
There have been recent concerns that the Home Office would reduce how long international students could remain in the UK. Concerns that the Graduate Route would be cut from two years to six months, however, have not happened. International students remain able to stay for two years through the Graduate Route and three years for doctoral/PhD students.
Concerns About the New Rules
Jamie Arrowsmith, Director of Universities UK International responded to the announcement with concerns regarding women and students from certain countries. Mr Arrowsmith states that although many students will remain unaffected, more information is needed about the programmes in the scope. Once this information has been released, a proper assessment of the impact can be made. He also highlights that any changes will have a disproportionate impact on women and students from certain countries. Therefore, he urges the government to work with the sector to limit the impact on particular groups of students. Additionally, she states that universities should be monitored. The update in law comes at a time when universities are already under serious financial pressure.
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All advice is correct at time of publication.