Foreign students in the UK will no longer have the right to bring their families with them

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New immigration curbs will prevent foreign postgraduate students on non-research courses from bringing their family members to the UK.

The announcement comes just two days before official statistics are set to reveal a record-breaking 700,000 legal migrations this year.

In 2022, the number of visas granted to dependants of foreign students rose to 135,788, nearly nine times higher than the figure in 2019. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak informed ministers that this decision would contribute to reducing overall migration.

According to No 10, the Prime Minister informed the cabinet that the change, set to take effect in January 2024, will have a “significant impact on the numbers.”

The precise effect on official migration levels remains uncertain as individuals who stay in the UK for less than a year, including students and their family members, are not included in the count.

Last week, he stated that ministers were exploring various possibilities to reduce migration but did not disclose the desired level of acceptability.

The Conservatives had previously pledged to reduce net migration to below 100,000 annually. However, they abandoned this target prior to the 2019 election after consistently failing to achieve it.

The recent announcement states that partners and children of postgraduate students, except those enrolled in research programs, will no longer be eligible to apply for residency in the UK during their course.

The number of visas granted to dependants increased significantly, reaching 135,788 last year, compared to 54,486 in 2021 and a mere 19,139 in 2020.

Since the introduction of study visa requirements for European Economic Area (EEA) students after Brexit, these figures have witnessed an increase.

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Applications have also seen an increase since the rule change in 2019, which allows foreign students to stay in the UK for two years after graduation to search for employment opportunities.

According to Home Secretary Suella Braverman, the significant increase in visas granted to dependants is “unprecedented,” and it is now necessary to tighten this pathway to reduce migration numbers.

During her statement to Parliament, she emphasized that this measure “strikes the right balance” by reducing migration while safeguarding the economic advantages that students contribute to the UK.

There was internal disagreement within the government regarding the possibility of going further and potentially prohibiting the dependants of all postgraduate students, including those enrolled in research courses.

However, some ministers, including Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, contended that postgraduate students staying in the UK for longer periods and offering greater economic benefits warranted a different approach.

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