The Government is committed to reducing net migration which has risen abruptly. It can be partly attributed to the hostilities in Eastern Europe and the schemes for Hong Kong. However, there are other factors, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported that the number of student visas issued in 2021-2022 rose to just under 500,000, with an increase of 750% since 2019, this has been attributed largely to the dependants of overseas students.
Whilst the Government still adheres to its commitment to the International Education Strategy, this must be balanced with the its equally strong commitment to lower overall migration as well as its intention of attracting highly skilled migrants that will provide the most benefit to the UK.
In order to attempt to fulfil the commitment to limit migration new proposals are to be introduced related to student visas, as outlined in a written Statement made in the House of Commons by Suella Braverman, Home Secretary. The proposals will prevent students from bringing their dependant family members to the UK. The proposed new rules will not apply to doctoral students studying for a PHD aimed at research programmes.
Other potential provisions, which may be introduced at some stage in the future to prevent abuse of the system, are that overseas students will not be allowed to switch from a student visa to a work visa until they have completed their studies. Also, the earnings threshold to enable graduates to remain in the UK may be raised from £26,000 p.a. to £30,000 p.a., to match the average wage in the UK.
Professor Brian Bell, who chairs the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), as reported in the Daily Telegraph, has suggested reducing the time graduates are permitted to remain in the UK, post-graduation, stating he did not find it necessary for foreign graduates to remain in the UK for two after completing their degrees.
Kavina Munja, a member of the immigration department, commented "if the new reforms go ahead they will be implemented from January 2024. This gives aspiring students a short window of opportunity to come to the UK to study whilst it still enables them to bring their family dependents with them prior to parliamentary approval of the new rules." Kavina further pointed out "It is important to recognise the position of the Home Secretary with regard to the new changes to student migration. As the surge in student migration is unprecedented, it is acknowledged that the system has required reform for quite some time and it has become necessary to take steps to ensure that the international student migration policy is not abused and used just for the purpose of settling in the UK as opposed to having a genuine interest in taking advantage of the educational benefits available to international students in the UK"
Nonetheless, there are other routes available for students that also enable them to bring their family members to the UK as dependents.
- Skilled Worker Visa;
- Global Mobility Visa;
- Health Care Worker Visa;
- High Potential Individual (HPI) Visa; or
- Start-Up Visa;
- Innovator Founder Visa;
- International Sportsperson Visa.
Giambrone & Partners highly experienced immigration lawyers can assist with each route and the eligibility requirements which will be mandatory to meet for individuals to be granted the above mentioned visas. Our lawyers will review all your documentation to ensure that your application does not have any breaches.
Currently, there has been no indication that there will be any further changes to criteria of any other visas. However, it is highly possible that there may be further changes to curb alternative the routes to student visas that allow dependent family members to join them in the future as the Government attempts to limit net migration overall. Therefore, time is of the essence and individuals with a genuine intention to take advantage of the UK's educational opportunities and wish to benefit from bringing their dependent family members with them should act fast.
Alternatively, students that are concerned about what this means for them in the future should understand the other options available and to speak to a professional for further advice on what the best route will be for them.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.