London: British Home Secretary James Cleverly has said the “unreasonable practice” of international students bringing their family to the UK will end as restrictions on visa routes come into force beginning today.
A near-eightfold rise in the number of family members joining foreign students led the UK government to announce the ban last year for those not studying “high-value” degrees under government plans.
Further, to prevent misuse of the visa system, foreign students will be stopped from switching from the student visa route into work routes until their studies have been completed.
According to an Evening Standard report, Cleverly said the government is delivering on its commitment to the British public by setting out a “tough plan” to cut migration by tens of thousands and prevent people from manipulating the UK immigration system.
“Today, a major part of that plan comes into effect, ending the unreasonable practice of overseas students bringing their family members to the UK. This will see migration falling rapidly by the tens of thousands and contribute to our overall strategy to prevent 300,000 people from coming to the UK,” he said.
Revised Office for National Statistic (ONS) figures released last month showed net migration ran at a record figure of 745,000 in the year to December 2022.
In the year ending September 2023, 152,980 visas were issued to dependants of students.
As per the 2020-21 data, Indians represent the second largest cohort of international students coming to study at UK universities — with 87,045 first-year enrolments behind China’s 99,965 enrolments.
In 2022, the number of Indian students (excluding dependents) who went to the UK for studies was 1,39,539, according to the Ministry of External Affairs.
Education experts have expressed concern about the measure, saying international students will go to competitor nations if they are discouraged from coming to the UK.
“I don’t celebrate the new changes…,” Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) think tank, told The Standard.
“International students benefit the UK in all sorts of ways. For example, they are vital to maintaining our world-class university sector as their fees cross-subsidise the teaching of home students and also help to fund UK research.
According to estimates, international students add 35 billion pounds a year to the UK economy.
Foreign students and their dependents contributed to the UK economy not just through fees of 10,000 pounds to 26,000 pounds but also via an NHS surcharge of 400 pounds a year for the student and 600 pounds for a dependent, according to the UK-based New Way Consultancy.