Student UK Visa Route Changes: Effective January 2024

Personal Immigration, 23 May 2023

The UK Government has announced that it will place restrictions on the ability for international Student visa holders to bring dependants to the UK from January 2024. The government further said that these restrictions will apply to all students except students in postgraduate research courses.

The announcement, made in a written statement by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, stated that the government is “removing the right for international students to bring dependants unless they are on postgraduate courses currently designated as research programmes”.

One of the main justifications for the change is that the government aims to reduce net migration and fulfil its commitment to reduce migration numbers.  Prime Minister of the UK, 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.

In 2022, there were 135,788 UK visas granted to dependants, a rise from 54,486 in 2021, and more than seven times the 19,139 granted in 2020.  These figures have increased since study visa requirements for European Economic Area (EEA) students were introduced after Brexit combined with the introduction of the Graduate visa route which opened for applications on 1 July 2021, allowing students to work or look for work in the UK after their studies for a maximum period of 2 years, or 3 years for Doctoral students.

Implications for Student visa applicants

Current UK visa rules allow full-time students studying above degree level in the UK at a higher education provider with a track record of compliance on a course lasting 9 months or longer to bring their partners and children into the UK.

Under the announcement, from January 2024, partners and children of students other than those studying on postgraduate courses designated as research programmes will no longer be allowed to apply to live in the UK during the course as dependants.

Work Visa Switching Changes

The statement also said that the government would remove the ability for students to switch from their Student visa to a Skilled Worker visa until they have completed their studies. 

Current UK visa rules allow students flexibility to switch from their Student visa to a Skilled Worker visa prior to completing their course if they are applying no than 3 months before they are expected to complete their course, or if they are studying a PhD and have completed at least 12 months study in the UK towards the PhD.

Impact to the Graduate UK Visa Route

The Graduate visa route remains unaffected by these changes which provides the opportunity for students to stay in the UK to work or look for work following the successful completion of an eligible course of study in the UK at bachelor’s degree-level or above with a higher education provider with a track record of compliance.

Impact on Migration Levels

The impact that the above changes will have on official migration levels is unclear.  However, it is envisaged that these will have an impact on the UK’s desirability as a destination for international study, particularly as many of those coming to the UK to study (particularly for prolonged periods) also want their family to be part of that experience.

How can we help?

We can provide comprehensive advice to students and their dependants seeking to apply to study and live in the UK or to current students seeking to switch to a Skilled Worker visa in the UK.  We can ensure that your visa application whether it be your Student visa, Graduate Visa, Skilled Worker visa or Dependant visa complies with the ever-changing requirements pre and post the January 2024 changes.

For more detailed UK immigration advice and for any other questions on this and other UK immigration developments, please contact us at info@viajeukimmigration.com