UK to stop Nigerian students, others bringing family in bid to curb migration
Foreign postgraduate students on non-research courses will no longer be able to bring family members to the UK, under new immigration curbs.
The announcement has been made two days before official statistics are expected to show legal migration has hit a record 700,000 this year.
Last year, 135,788 visas were granted to dependants of foreign students, nearly nine times the 2019 figure.
PM Rishi Sunak told ministers the move would help bring migration down.
He told the cabinet that the change, to begin in January 2024, will make a “significant difference to the numbers,” according to No 10.
Last week, he said ministers were “considering a range of options” to bring migration down, but refused to say what an acceptable level was.
The Conservatives have previously promised to bring net migration below 100,000 a year, but ditched the target ahead of the 2019 election after repeatedly failing to meet it.
Under the announcement, partners and children of postgraduate students other than those studying on courses designated as research programmes will no longer be allowed to apply to live in the UK during the course.
Last year, the 135,788 visas granted to dependants made up more than a fifth of all sponsored study related visas granted, compared to 6% in 2019.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the rise in dependants being granted visas was “unprecedented,” and it was “time for us to tighten up this route to ensure we can cut migration numbers”.
In a statement to Parliament, she added that the move “strikes the right balance” between bringing down migration and “protecting the economic benefits that students can bring to the UK”.
Universities UK (UUK), umbrella group for British universities, said it recognised the “substantial” rise in dependant visas had sometimes led to “local challenges” over family accommodation and schooling.
“Given this, some targeted measures to mitigate this rise may be reasonable,” said Jamie Arrowsmith, the director of UUK’s international arm.
He called on the government to work with universities to monitor the effect of the changes, adding they were “likely to have a disproportionate impact on women and students from certain countries”.
According to HESA, an education data group, there were 679,970 international students in the UK in 2021/2022.
Of these 307,470 were undergraduates, who already can’t bring family members to the UK during their course.
There were 372,500 postgraduates, of whom 46,350 are on research courses – the vast majority of them for PhDs, along with a small number of research-based masters degrees.
Students coming to the UK with a visa need to provide documents proving their relationship to dependants, who have to pay £490 for a visa.
Dependants are also required to pay the immigration health surcharge – an annual contribution between £470 and £624 towards NHS services.