In a recent announcement, the United Kingdom (UK) revealed its plan to implement new restrictions on foreign students, preventing them from bringing their family members with them, effective from 2024. The decision by the UK government aims to reduce net migration and curb the misuse of student visas as a backdoor route to work in the country.
The Home Office stated that nearly half a million student visas were issued last year, while the number of dependents accompanying overseas students has surged by 750% since 2019, reaching 136,000 individuals. To address this significant increase, the UK government believes it is necessary to tighten the student visa route.
The upcoming reforms, which will come into effect for students beginning their studies in January next year, will restrict students from switching from the student visa route to work routes until they have completed their studies. This measure aims to prevent the exploitation of the visa system.
Additionally, the UK government plans to review the financial requirements for students, ensuring they can support themselves and their dependents during their stay. The authorities also intend to crack down on unscrupulous international student agents who may facilitate inappropriate visa applications.
Suella Braverman, Secretary of State for the Home Department, emphasized the importance of these measures in protecting the UK economy. While the UK remains a top destination for talented students worldwide, the influx of student dependents has created challenges that need to be addressed.
The ban on bringing family members will primarily affect master’s students and some other postgraduates. However, it will not apply to highly skilled PhD students, whose courses typically last between 3 to 5 years.
The decision to restrict family members from accompanying students to the UK is expected to have a significant impact on Nigerian students. Nigerian nationals accounted for the highest increase in the number of dependents accompanying individuals with study visas in 2022. Moreover, they witnessed the largest increase in sponsored study grants, reaching a record high of 65,929, an increase of 57,545 (+686%) compared to 2019. These numbers establish Nigerians as the third-largest nationality group among study visa recipients.
This move aligns with Suella Braverman’s broader vision to tighten immigration and visa policies in the UK. It follows her earlier plans to reform the graduate visa route.
As the UK moves forward with these changes, the government pledges to collaborate with the higher education sector to explore alternative options that allow the brightest and best students to continue bringing their dependents while studying at the country’s prestigious universities.
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