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Changes to the UK Student Visa Route

On 23 May 2023, the UK Government announced changes to the student visa route which will be effective from January 2024.

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What are the changes to the UK Student Visa Route?

Effective from January 2024, the following three changes will be made to the UK Student Visa Route:

  1. Dependents: Starting January 2024, international students will no longer have the freedom to bring their dependents to the UK, except for those enrolled in research programs.

  2. Switching to work visas: Individuals currently holding a UK student visa will no longer be eligible to switch to work-related visas, such as the skilled worker visa, within the UK unless they have successfully completed their course.

  3. Financial requirements: The financial requirements for maintaining a student visa and supporting dependents will undergo a review. Specific details regarding the revised financial thresholds are yet to be announced.

How does this differ from the current Student Visa Route?

Under the existing immigration law, international students are permitted to bring their dependents with them to the UK, provided they have adequate funds for their support. The current maintenance fund requirements are £845 per month, per dependent for students in London, and £680 per month, per dependent for students outside London, in addition to their own maintenance and course funds.

Dependents of students on a student visa are currently allowed to work and study in the UK, subject to certain restrictions. Additionally, students have the flexibility to transition from a UK student visa to the skilled worker category while still in the UK, prior to completing their course.


Why have these changes to the UK Student Visa Route been introduced?

The government has outlined two main justifications for the changes to the UK Student Visa Route:

  1. Net migration: The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that net migration exceeded 500,000 between June 2021 and June 2022. The significant increase in dependents of overseas students, which rose by 750% since 2019 to 136,000 individuals, is a contributing factor. The government aims to reduce net migration and fulfill its commitment to cut migration numbers.

  2. Perceived misuse of the visa system: The changes related to transitioning from a student visa to a skilled worker visa before completing studies aim to prevent misuse of the visa system, particularly instances where students switch visa categories without completing their courses.


When will the changes to the UK Student Visa Route be implemented?

The precise dates and details of these changes have yet to be announced by the government.


How does this impact the Graduate Visa?

It is important to note that the Graduate Visa route remains unaffected by these changes, providing an opportunity for international students to extend their stay in the UK after completing their studies.


The reaction

Commenting on the matter, Thal Vasishta, CEO of Paragon Law, expressed concerns, stating, “Dependents of students are on the whole a net contributor to the UK economy, particularly at a time when there are acute shortages of labour the labour market and many dependents bring their own skills, experience and qualifications.”

Julie Blant, Careers Specialist at Nottingham Business School, emphasised the far-reaching implications of the decision on dependents, saying, “The decision on dependents will have huge implications for the higher education sector and the economy. This will have an impact on the UK’s desirability as a destination for international study, particularly when it comes to post graduate training students who sometimes bring partners and children with them rather than be apart for a year or more.”

Rebecca Fielding, Managing Director of Gradconsult, raised concerns about the disproportionate impact on female international students, who are less likely to travel if they have children. She stated, “It would have a disproportionate impact on female international students who are much less likely to travel if they have children. This policy will be detrimental to all but especially women.”


How can Paragon Law help?

At Paragon Law, our immigration solicitors can provide comprehensive advice and support to students and their dependents looking to apply to study in the UK or to current students looking to switch to a skilled worker visa. We can help ensure that your visa application complies with the current rules. We can assist you to complete your visa application prior to these changes being introduced in January 2024. 

Make an enquiry


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