The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman MP, has written to all MPs to outline reforms to reduce net migration. This has risen in part due to temporary factors such as a rise of legal routes through the Ukraine and Hong Kong schemes.
Immigration statistics, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), have highlighted an unexpected rise in the number of dependants coming to the UK alongside international students. Around 136,000 visas were granted to dependants of sponsored students in the year ending December 2022, a more than eight-fold increase from 16,000 in 2019, when the government’s commitment to lower net migration was made. The UK is committed to supporting international students and helping leading universities to benefit from the best and brightest students studying at their institutions, as demonstrated by its success in achieving the goals from our International Education Strategy.
However, the government believes this success should not come at the expense of the commitment to the public to lower overall migration. Therefore, the Home Secretary has announced a new package of measures to help deliver the goal of falling net migration, whilst supporting the priority of growing the economy. The measures 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 dependents
- Steps to clamp down on unscrupulous education agents who may be supporting inappropriate applications to sell immigration, not education
- Better communicating immigration rules to the higher education sector and to international students
- Improved and more targeted enforcement activity
The government will work with universities over the course of the next year to design an alternative approach that ensures that the best and the brightest students can bring dependants to our world leading universities, while continuing to reduce net migration. This system as soon as possible, after thorough consultation with the sector and key stakeholders.
The full announcement can be viewed in the Home Secretary’s letter below.