In 2022, there was a 30% increase in the number of students who brought their family members to the UK with them, prompting the government to consider restrictions on dependants’ visa.

According to a report by the British newspaper The Times, the UK government is currently discussing potential policy changes that could prevent foreign students from bringing dependants such as their spouses and children to the UK unless they are studying high-value degrees.

As per The Times report, the UK government may permit foreign students to bring their spouses and children only if they are pursuing courses that the government deems as high-value for the economy, such as maths, engineering and science. The current policy allows postgraduate students to bring their family members to the UK, regardless of the type of degree they are studying.

The Home Office spokesperson stated that they continuously review all immigration policies to ensure that they align with the country’s interests and reflect the priorities of the public, but refrained from confirming the reports.

The UK’s points-based system is intended to be adaptable to the country’s needs, including attracting outstanding talents from all over the world to contribute to the UK’s outstanding academic reputation and keep its universities competitive internationally.

Home Office Spokesperson

The Home Office’s data release revealed a significant increase in the number of study-related visas granted to dependents of students in 2022. The data shows that in 2022, dependents of students received 135,788 (22%) of all study-related visas, while in 2019, they received only 16,047 (6%). The Home Office suggested that this increase could be due to changes in the composition of students coming to the UK, such as a higher proportion of older students.

In 2022, Nigerian students had the largest number of dependents, increasing from 1,586 in 2019 to 60,923. Indian nationals had the second-highest number with 38,990 dependents. The top five nationalities, which include Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, accounted for almost 120,000 dependants’ visa granted in 2022.

The increase in the number of dependents of students was predictable due to the growing demand for postgraduate programs.

Jeff Williams – CEO and Co-Founder Enroly (Student Onboarding Platform)

Although the international education sector has previously opposed limiting dependants’ visa, some have raised concerns about the challenges of supporting students with families in finding suitable schools and housing.

An announcement regarding potential policy updates for international students from the UK government is expected soon. However, MPs from the opposition party have expressed their opposition to any changes in policy affecting foreign students.

In a parliamentary debate at the end of February, Wes Streeting, shadow health and social care secretary in the Labour Party, expressed his opposition to the potential policy changes surrounding international students. He stated that he hoped that UK home secretary Suella Braverman would not succeed in implementing these changes. Streeting emphasized the importance of having international students at British universities, stating that it is “a wonderful thing”.

It provides opportunities for British students to learn from and engage with diverse cohorts. He also emphasized the contributions that international students make to the cultural and intellectual life of universities and the communities where they live. He also noted that they play an essential role in extending the UK’s soft power and diplomatic influence by returning to their countries with positive memories of Britain.