New restrictions to student visa routes in the United Kingdom will restrict the ability of international students, including Indians, to bring family members on all but post-graduate research routes with them.
This will ban people from using a student visa as a backdoor route to work in the UK, a government statement read.
In a written statement to the House of Commons, UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman said that only international students on postgraduate courses currently designated as research programmes will be allowed to bring in their family members, including children and elderly parents, as their dependents.
“We have seen an unprecedented rise in the number of student dependents being brought into the country with visas. It is time for us to tighten up this route to ensure we can cut migration numbers and meet the government’s pledge to the British people to cut net migration,” Braverman said.
The Indian-origin minister added that the new package of measures was necessary after it emerged that around 136,000 visas were granted to dependents of sponsored students in the year ending December 2022 - a more than eight-fold increase from 16,000 in 2019.
"This package includes removing the right for international students to bring dependents unless they are on postgraduate courses currently designated as research programmes," Braverman's statement noted.
The minister also pledged steps to clamp down on unscrupulous education agents "who may be supporting inappropriate applications to sell immigration not education".
Removing the ability for international students to switch out of the student route into work routes before their studies have been completed and reviewing the maintenance requirements for students and dependents are listed among the other new measures.
Following the UK leaving the EU, the government introduced a points-based immigration system.
The government stated that it was still committed to the International Education Strategy and new Graduate route visa, which allows students to stay on and seek work experience for up to three years at the end of their degree, but not “at the expense of the commitment to the public to lower overall migration”.
Indians, who recently overtook Chinese as the leading nationality granted study visas to the UK, are the highest cohort to access this visa launched in July 2021.
As per official data for 2020-21, there were 87,045 Indian first-year enrollments behind China's 99,965 and ahead of Nigeria's 32,945.
In terms of the number of dependents accompanying these students, Nigerians rank the highest followed by Indians.
The new curbs are expected to be enforced for students starting in January next year, after consultation with the educational sector and key stakeholders.