On 23 May, the UK Government announced some important changes for international students. These changes include:
"Removing the right for international students to bring dependants unless they are on postgraduate courses currently designated as research programmes.”
"Removing the ability for international students to switch out of the student route into work routes before their studies have been completed.”
"Reviewing the maintenance requirements for students and dependants.”
We have no other details about these changes yet, but we will issue further news items when we have updated information from the government.
Additionally, our advice line cannot help you with these questions until we know more, but our FAQ guide below explains what we do and do not know currently.
When do these changes come into effect?
It is likely that the change affecting dependants will come into effect in January 2024.
It is our understanding that it may depend on whether your course starts in or after January 2024, even if you apply for immigration permission in 2023 ahead of that course. However, we await confirmation of this from the government.
We have no information about when the other changes might come into force.
What does this mean if I want to apply under the Graduate route?
If your dependants have student dependant permission before you apply for the Graduate route, they should be able to apply as graduate dependants. If you cannot bring your dependants to the UK, or they cannot join you here, because of these changes, they will not be able to apply as graduate dependants. This is because the government has said it is not changing the Graduate route; dependants must already be in the UK as a student dependant if they want to stay as a graduate dependant.
I am already in the UK with student permission. Can my dependants join me?
Currently, yes, providing you are eligible to have dependants and they can meet the requirements for that application: https://www.ukcisa.org.uk/Information--Advice/Visas-and-Immigration/Dependants.
However, we do not yet know what will happen if your dependants want to apply to join you in or after January 2024.
I want to apply in the UK in 2024 to start a new course. How does this change regarding dependants affect me?
If you plan to do a research degree, your dependants should be able to join or stay with you. We do not yet know how you will be affected if you are already studying here and want to study any other kind of qualification. We also do not yet know whether it will make a difference if your dependants are already in the UK with you, or if you make your application inside or outside the UK.
What about government-sponsored students?
Currently, government-sponsored students taking any course at least six months long can bring or be joined by dependants. We do not yet know if this exception will remain in force.
Does this announcement mean I cannot apply under a work route after my studies?
No. The government’s intention is to stop students applying under the Skilled Worker route before they complete their course. We do not yet know if the exception for PhD students will remain in place. We also do not know how the Home Office will define "course completion" in this context. This change should not prevent you from applying under one of the many different work routes when you have completed your course.
How much will the new maintenance requirement be, and when will it increase?
We do not know yet. The Home Office is aware that you need several months' warning of an increase in the funds requirement. In 2020, we lobbied successfully to postpone an increase in funds for this reason.
The statement refers to consultation. Is there any chance these changes will not come into effect?
Regarding the changes relating to dependants, we understand that consultation with the education sector will not take place until after the government has implemented these changes. However, we await clarity on this. Regardless, we will continue to raise our concerns about this policy with government departments and hope that changes will be reviewed. It is safest to assume the changes will come into effect, and plan accordingly.