The British government has announced measures to restrict the ability of international students to bring family members to the UK in order to reduce net migration to the country.
The move comes as official statistics are expected to confirm that net migration rose to more than 700,000 in the year to December 2022.
The new visa restrictions, announced on Tuesday, will prohibit international students studying in the UK from being able to bring family members over, according to official government statements.
The new reforms will come into effect for students starting their studies in January 2024. And from then, only postgraduate students, whose studies are currently designated as research programmes, will have the opportunity to bring family members to the UK.
Last year, 486,000 student visas were issued – up from 269,000 in 2019, according to the government. In the same period, the number of student visas issued to dependants was 136,000 – an eightfold increase from 2019, when 16,000 were granted.
The restrictions are aimed at “banning people from using a student visa as a backdoor route to work in the UK”, according to a press release announcing the changes.
“To prevent misuse of the visa system, overseas students will be stopped from switching from the student visa route into work routes until their studies have been completed,” the government statement said.
“The government will also review the funds students must have to demonstrate they can look after themselves and their dependants in the UK, as well as clamp down on unscrupulous international student agents who may be supporting inappropriate applications.”
Responding to the government’s announcement, Jamie Arrowsmith, director of Universities UK International, said the changes were likely to have a “disproportionate impact on women and students from certain countries”. Among these countries are Nigeria and Ghana, which send thousands of students to the UK annually. “Last year, 59,053 Nigerian students brought over 60,923 relatives,” the government report noted.
Net migration to the UK between June 2021 and June 2022 stood at over 500,000, according to the Office for National Statistics. The net migration figure for 2022-2023 is expected to be higher at 700,000.